Like the ghost of Christmas past, Sir Dave Lewis reappeared in the pages of The Grocer this week – with a warning not to forget the planet. Lewis, who was talking in his capacity as chair of the WWF, stressed the food and drink industry’s need to go further and faster in tackling climate change.

So he will be pleased to see that Sarah Bradbury, his former Tesco protégé, has made it (part of) her mission to help speed up progress on the sustainability front, in her new role at the IGD, with the help of its new pan-industry eco-label. The aim is threefold: to measure environmental impact in a scientifically robust and independently verified way; to achieve a level playing field through consistency of measurement; and, by introducing a scoring system, similar to the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) nutritional labelling scheme, to nudge retailers, suppliers and consumers towards more sustainable choices. 

It’s a real test of the IGD’s influence. With as many as 50 competing and proprietary schemes, from Foundation Earth to Red Tractor, the scheme has the potential not just to unify and simplify the industry’s efforts, but to gain the UK government’s approval, and as such it would surely make a difference.

It’s not the only area either where the IGD could play a greater role in bringing the industry together for the greater good. On food waste, mercifully, there is now agreement that it will be measured under the food data transparency protocol after all. Establishing healthy food sales targets, on the other hand, will be far harder. And the proliferation of CO2 measurement systems makes the situation with eco-labels look joined-up. In the UK there are at least eight rival proprietary schemes in existence and up to 600 different systems globally, each measuring greenhouse gas emissions differently.

And there’s another problem with the IGD’s unification efforts. As a UK-only scheme, even if it’s approved by Defra, the eco-label, for example, will still have to compete against EU schemes, as well as those same competitive proprietary systems pushing for recognition. France, for example, has recently backed the Foundation Earth label. What a can of worms.