A European project to achieve more sustainable production and distribution of foodstuffs

February 22, 2012

The European project SENSE aims to contribute towards getting the food and drink sector to engage in more environmentally sustainable production, transformation and distribution of its products. Azti-Tecnalia is co-ordinating this community initiative that comes within the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union, and in which 23 members are participating, including companies, foodstuff associations and research centres from 12 European countries.

The agri-foodstuffs industry is a major contributor towards the global warming of the planet and uses about 70% of the world's fresh water. Data like these highlight the need to have tools that will help to reduce the environmental impact of food and drink throughout their production chain, starting with their production and transformation and going right up to their commercial distribution. The SENSE project (Harmonised Environmental Sustainability in the European food & drink chain) brings together researchers, producers, transformers and distributors in order to achieve a harmonised, integral methodology that can be used to evaluate the environmental impact of food products accurately and efficiently.

The SENSE members will be focusing specifically on creating a methodology applied to the juice, dairy, meat and aquaculture sectors, chosen for their importance in the European market. The methodology expected to emerge out of the SENSE project will need to have the following features: it can be easily incorporated into foodstuff companies irrespective of their size, and can also help consumers to identify, on the market, the products that are committed to the sustainability of the environment.

The project, which will be developed over three years, sets out to evaluate the current systems for analysing environmental impact, and will come up with a new simplified system to evaluate traceable sustainability throughout the production chain. It is about devising a process that will actually incorporate the three pillars of sustainability: respect for the environment, economic viability and benefit for society.

The new methodology will be transferred to the various foodstuff sectors as well as to the entities involved in the food chain. Likewise, consumers will be participating by deciding what form the product identification will take, and what the informative content will consist of; the purpose is to enable the general public to choose the more sustainable articles.

Elhuyar Fundazioa

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