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Building Sustainability Credentials with Strong Data

How are you backing up your sustainability claims?

Denis Tremorin, MSc, PAg Director of Sustainability

Dec 09, 2021

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Conversations around climate change are evolving around the globe and, while the plant-based industry was once looked at as a standard for sustainable food systems, critics are starting to expose the deficiencies in the claims of some of even the most trusted “sustainable” products. Now consumers are reading sustainability claims with more skepticism than ever before and companies that aren’t able to offer a complete sustainability story will quickly get left behind.

Where at one time it may have been sufficient to say pulses are a sustainable protein source because they are plant-based, the changing consumer sentiment is leaving questions as to what the full impact of an ingredient or product has on our planet. The defining factor between the claims that stand out and those that falter is having strong data that accounts for multiple environmental endpoints. For agricultural products, that means data needs to be representative of farmers and built on with robust statistics and survey data. Data should also be as geographically representative as possible, especially in large countries like Canada.

Where at one time it may have been sufficient to say pulses are a sustainable protein source because they are plant-based, the changing consumer sentiment is leaving questions as to what the full impact of an ingredient or product has on our planet.

- Denis Tremorin

A good benchmark for data quality is a life cycle assessment (LCA). An LCA is a standardized method of quantifying environmental impact (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions, land and water use) across the entire life cycle of a product or service. This is done by capturing all of the resource inputs needed to produce that product. In the case of crops like pulses, that means fertilizers, fuel, crop protection products and energy use.

  • Pulse Canada recently engaged Dr. Nathan Pelletier from the University of British Columbia to conduct an LCA of Canadian peas and lentils. Dr. Pelletier manages the Food Systems PRISM lab at UBC, which focuses on LCA for food and agricultural systems in Canada. The LCA for peas and lentils began with a survey of 600 producers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The survey data was then reviewed by a number of experts from different fields including crop fertility, pest control, on-farm fuel and energy use, and general agronomy. The final data has been published on EcoInvent, one of the largest and most transparent life cycle inventory databases. This allows companies and researchers to access the raw Canadian data in order to conduct LCA’s on their own food and ingredients that include Canadian peas and lentils.

  • Pea and Lentil Life Cycle Assessment

The results of the Canadian pea and lentil LCA were consistent with other research demonstrating that Canadian peas and lentils are some of the lowest carbon footprint foods around. Our goal is for companies to utilize this data to help them accurately measure the environmental footprint of their products so they can reach their sustainability goals and consumers can feel good about the products they are investing in.

A trusted sustainability claim starts with strong data. Consumers need to feel empowered that their diet is not only positively impacting their bodies, but every environmental element as well. If you’re interested in the details of our Canadian Pea and Lentil LCA project, head over to this page to download the report.

Life Cycle Assessment Summary Report

See how Canadian pulses can provide the sustainability profile you need.

View Report
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Pulse Canada is the national association of growers, traders and processors of Canadian pulses, also known as lentils, dry peas, beans and chickpeas. Pulses are an essential part of a healthy and sustainable diet. Pulses and pulse ingredients can help food manufacturers improve the nutritional and functional quality of food products.