Online technology pioneered by fmcg giant Unilever to measure the greenhouse gas emissions of farmers in its supply chain is to be rolled out as an independently run global eco-initiative.

The Cool Farm Tool allows farmers to calculate the emissions from their fields, livestock and land use, using a free downloadable calculator.

As well as recording their impact on the environment, the technology, first piloted by Unilever two years ago and developed by a partnership between the University of Aberdeen and The Sustainable Food Lab in the US, also directs suppliers online towards more sustainable ideas.

Unilever, which has used the tool to calculate the impact of brands including Ben & Jerry’s, has already been working with the likes of PepsiCo and Marks & Spencer to help develop the tool further. Under the latest move it will be rolled out as an independently run, not-for-profit organisation.

The decision came after a recent meeting with rival food and drink suppliers, retailers, farming organisations and NGOs from around the world to decide on the next steps for the project.

“Unilever realises benefit cannot be sought by going it alone and a key goal of the tool has been to broaden the number of firms engaged in this agenda to ensure consistency across the sector,” said a spokesman.

The move was welcomed by Simon Miller, director at sustainability consultants Best Foot Forward. “Many firms have been looking at assessing and quantifying the impacts of agricultural activities with trepidation because they simply don’t know where to start. This is an example of co-operation in the industry that will make that easier,” he said.

Last week, retailers told The Grocer that fears over breaching cartel rules were hindering cooperation on green initiatives.