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The Role of Data in Telling Your Sustainability Story

Regardless of what part of the value chain you belong to, you’re likely going to have conversations around reducing greenhouse gas emissions this year.

Denis Tremorin Director, Sustainability

Jan 31, 2022

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The lack of standardization for sustainability claims has left consumers and stakeholders alike questioning the validity of these statements. Claiming a low water footprint or a source of plant-based protein is no longer enough to get a green mark of approval. Products once perceived as leaders in sustainable foods are now getting exposed for telling only one piece of the story. As countries across the globe develop more policies and regulations to reduce their national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, products that don’t showcase their entire environmental impact will quickly be dismissed.

Organizations who haven’t already set sustainability goals will likely soon have to, if not to align with growing consumer demand, then to align with national goals and regulations set by their governments. Building a transparent sustainability claim should start with data points from the entire life cycle of the product. For products with pulse ingredients, that means starting with data from the field and measuring all the way to the grocery shelf. Without data that considers every environmental endpoint and step of the value chain, it’s not possible to confidently assess the impact of food products.

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. 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.

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.

As we enter the era of carbon labelling, companies need to fully understand their environmental footprint, build strategies to reduce it, and prove they're doing the work in order to evolve alongside consumer demand. Regardless of what part of the value chain you belong to, you’re likely going to have conversations around reducing GHG emissions this year.

Join us for 3-part mini webinar series where Denis Tremorin, our Director of Sustainability, discusses how companies can leverage data to build strong sustainability claims.


SUSTAINABILITY MINI WEBINAR SERIES

To learn more about crafting data-driven sustainability claims, join us this Wednesday, February 2 for part three of our mini webinar series—Sustainability Transparency: Using Data to Back Up Your Story.

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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.