Impact Score® Shopping’s mission is to help people live more sustainably. Our app does this by awarding badges to UK supermarket products based on sustainability, health and fairness where they meet our criteria.
Our badges draw on a number of different sources such as product information, government guidelines and scientific research. Our aim is to provide easy to understand badges as well as transparency about how we award those badges so users can choose which badges are most relevant to them.
We also look to continuously improve Impact Score® Shopping in order to help support our users in their quest to buy more sustainable and healthy products. We know we will never be perfect, but we hope that by constantly listening to our users, and improving, we’ll get better and better over time.
Review the badges below to see the rationale and methodology for how badges are awarded. Oversight of changes to our methodology, and the addition of new badges, is performed by Impact Score® Shopping’s Advisory Board.
Top rated products
The most sustainable or healthy products in the UK supermarket. Some are both. Building a basket of Hero Products will help reduce your environmental impact.
A purple badge is awarded to products which meet the criteria to be a hero.
The hero badge provides a single indicator to identify the most sustainable and healthy products in the supermarket. We use a combination of our badges, and certain filters, to define hero products with the objective being that a basket of hero products will help to materially reduce overall environmental impact as well as being healthier than the average UK shopping basket. The criteria for different supermarket aisles are set out below. However, in common across all categories is that hero products cannot have a very high carbon footprint or contain palm oil which is not sustainable.
Food and drink:
Products must be awarded at least four points. A point is awarded if the product has any of the following badges: organic; low carbon footprint; responsibly sourced; better packaging; healthier option; free from additives; animal welfare and plant based (outside fruit and vegetables). A point can also be awarded if a product is a “super green” (a healthy product that is awarded only greens for sugar, salt, fat and saturated fat based on the traffic light labelling system) and a point is taken off if a product gets an amber or red traffic light on both salt and sugar.
Furthermore if a product can be awarded a badge for being fair trade, sustainably fished, having no additives (drinks only) or animal welfare then this also becomes a necessary condition.
Finally certain categories cannot be hero products because there are direct substitutes available with lower environmental impact which are available at the same or lower costs. Examples include: still water and coffee capsules.
Skin and Haircare products:
Products must be awarded at least three “points”. A point is awarded if the product has any of the following badges: greener cosmetics; better packaging; no chemicals of concern; no animal testing.
Products must be awarded at least three “points”. A point is awarded if the product has any of the following badges: kinder cleaning; better packaging; no animal testing.
Organic means lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers, higher levels of animal welfare, and more environmentally sustainable management of farmland and the natural environment.
A green badge means the product passes our organic criteria which is based on certification by independent organisations. A grey badges means it does not and it is in a category where organic certification is relevant.
Organic certification standards aim to protect the environment, maximise use of renewable resources and minimise pollution while protecting local wildlife and animal welfare too.
We look for Soil Association, EU Organic, Organic Farmers and Growers and USDA certification in Food and Drink. We also look for GOTS certification for a small number of non-food products.
The benefits of organic
An increasing number of people are choosing organic produce when buying either in the supermarket or at local farmers’ markets as the benefits of organic become more widely known and appreciated. These include: more biodiversity on organic farms, reduced use of pesticides, better animal welfare and lower antibiotic use. Taste and nutritition is also noted by many consumers and there are further benefits such as improved local conservation. On top of this a number of studies have suggested further benefits from reduced erosion caused by wind and water, higher soil quality and reduced fertilizer usage leading to less “nitrogen leaching” (a process whereby fertilizer is washed from fields to rivers and oceans) as well as reduced GHG emissions from fertilizer production. All these factors help to offset the lower yields that organic farms often achieve due to less intensive farming methods. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture comprised about 10–12% of man-made GHG emissions in 2010 making the environmental benefits a key reason for consumers to focus on organic produce. An increasing number of consumers also simply prefer food from more sustainable production systems and want to know where their food comes from. Impact Score® Shopping uses a number of certification standards to ascertain if a product is organic.
The Soil Association is the UK’s leading organic certifier offering certification schemes across food, health & beauty and textiles. It has been a pioneer campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food since 1946 and is a charity that is able to act independently when certifying products. The Soil Association’s criteria are transparent and its logo is widely recognised and trusted by consumers across the UK. It’s environmental, social and agricultural principles underpin the practices that form the foundations of organic farming that they have established over the years.
The EU Organic Logo ensures that organic means the same for consumers and producers across the EU. EU legislation is detailed and rigorous and it is continuously reviewed whilst the “Euro Leaf” has become familiar to consumers across the UK in recent years. The certification standard ensures that organic operators are also reviewed annually. The EU’s definition of organic is refreshingly clear stating, “Put simply, organic farming is an agricultural system that seeks to provide you, the consumer, with fresh, tasty and authentic food while respecting natural life-cycle systems.” To support this the EU follows a number of objectives, principles and practices. For farmers this includes practices such as strict limits on fertilizer usage and free-range and open-air livestock raising whilst for organic processors it covers principles such as strict restrictions on which additives and processing aids can be used.
USDA is run by the US Department of Agriculture, follows a number of rules which are similar to UK bodies (no GMO, organic pesticides only) and has strict certification criteria.
Buy products with less packaging and recycle everything you can. This cuts waste to landfill, saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
A green badge means that the packaging passes our criteria for better packaging. This means that the packaging we have information for can be recycled. A grey badges means that the packaging does not pass our criteria and that some of the packaging will go to landfill or that the company is not following standard recycling guidelines so we cannot determine whether it is better packaging or not.
A trip to the supermarket shows how hard it is to cut back on packaging, especially plastic. However, in every aisle there are options to buy less packaging or choose products where the packaging is recyclable. No packaging is best and then widely recycled next as it means that most councils will recycle it. https://www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling can be used to check exactly what your council recycles. Currently a high number of products in the UK do not follow the UK standard OPRL guidelines. Where there is insufficient information we award a grey badge as we cannot determine whether the packaging passes our criteria. The objective of the badge is to find products where no packaging needs to go to landfill.
Cutting back on packaging and doing more recycling has many benefits including reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from landfill when it decomposes and reducing plastic pollution. Companies have an important role to play by providing clear information on what to do with the packaging after use, making sure they use materials that are widely recycled and, if it has to be plastic, making sure it’s from recycled materials and recyclable.
Is it possible to find Better Packaging in the supermarket?
In every supermarket aisle there are options to buy less packaging or choose products where the packaging is recyclable.
This has been a positive recent change driven by the Blue Planet effect, upcoming legislation that will tax certain plastic packaging and the industry’s own Plastics Pact which aims to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. The Better Packaging badge is in line with the aims of the Plastic Pact but encourages companies to move faster.
Transparency for consumers is also important for a product to be awarded the Better Packaging badge. Put simply it should be easy for consumers to decide what to do with the packaging in their hand.
However, as a result of this we are heavily dependent on manufacturers and retailers who have an important role to play by providing clear information on what to do with the packaging after use, making sure they use materials that are widely recycled and, if it has to be plastic, making sure it’s from recycled materials and recyclable. Whilst many companies have signed up to the UK’s leading On-Pack Recycling Label scheme (OPRL) a large number continue to provide limited, non-standard or confusing information. Therefore some products may not be awarded the badge due to lack of transparency and clarity for consumers even if the packaging could be recycled.
What we cannot do yet
It’s also important for us to highlight what we cannot do yet. In these situations, common sense and some additional research by our users is the way forward.
- It’s not plastic free. Many people want to go plastic free which remains a great option for cutting back on pollution and unnecessary waste. However, we have taken the approach that recyclable plastic is a good first step which is actionable and practical. Over time we hope companies will provide more widely recycled plastic and also start using more plastic from recycled materials. As they do we can keep raising the bar on better packaging.
- Whilst we may know the type of packaging it’s very hard for us to know if there is just too much of it. The human eye remains the best technology available for this sense check!
- We don’t exclude a product from getting a badge if it has some very small components which are not recyclable. This includes clips, collars, caps, ribbons and labels. Over time we’d like to see these as recyclable too but, practically, this would make supermarket shopping extremely challenging!
- In almost all supermarket aisles there are options for more sustainable, better packaging. Although our criteria have got tougher they are still very possible for companies to achieve.
Finally a quick word on OPRL which has played a crucial role in improving UK recycling rates.
The On-pack recycling label (OPRL) gives a simple and consistent UK-wide message on both retailer and brand packaging. It is recognised by 7 in 10 consumers and is used by over 600 brands. Recyclenow gives detailed information on what can be recycled, and where.
Less transportation is better for the environment. Some people also prefer to buy UK made products.
A green badge means that the product passes our criteria for being UK made.
Transporting products uses fuel. That creates greenhouse gas emissions. So buying goods that are produced, made or grown closer to you can help to cut emissions. You’ll support local jobs and businesses too.
We look for goods that are made in the UK (can also be farmed, produced, baked or brewed!). For fresh fruit, vegetables and meat try to buy locally and in season where you can as this further helps to reduce the environmental impact of your food.
The benefits of UK Made
An increasing number of people are interested in exactly where there food comes from and how it is made. This has been one of the reasons behind the huge growth of farmers’ markets in the UK as it is of particular importance for fresh produce.
The reasons behind this trend include: a belief that less transportation is better for the environment; some people prefer to support UK businesses and greater trust in UK standards.
Whether a UK made product has a lower environmental impact will depend on numerous factors including production methodology (e.g. greenhouses will typically use more energy than field grown whilst organic will encourage biodivesity and soil quality) and transportation method (with air freighting being notably high impact). However, buying local, organic in season fruit and vegetables are the best rules of thumb to follow. Eat the seasons offers useful advice on what’s in season today.
In the supermarket it can be more challenging to find local products although UK made is easier.
We look for goods that are made, farmed, baked, produced or brewer in the UK . In order to do this we use labelling information from the company supported by certifications, such as the Red Tractor UK flag, which confirm that a product comes from the UK.
We’re aware that what people really want to know is where their food, and all its ingredients come from. Unfortunately this remains close to impossible for most supermarket products as companies are unwilling, or unable, to provide that level of transparency. We continue to hope that this will change over time as more people demand it.
The UK Made badge is only awarded when we find evidence that a product is made in the UK. There is no associated negative badge.
Better for the environment and better for workers.
A green badge means the product passes one of our responsibly sourced criteria. A grey badge means it does not and it is in a category, or has a prevalent ingredient, which is commonly covered by one of the certification bodies we look for.
For responsible sourcing we look at fair trade (predominantly for tea, coffee, bananas and chocolate), sustainable fishing, sustainable wood and paper products and sustainable soy.
Fair trade means the protection of workers’ rights and the environment. Sustainable fishing is better for the environment because it avoids over-fishing and destructive methods. Forest friendly products come from well-managed forests which is good for the environment and local wildlife. Sustainably sourced soy products have been certified as deforestation free.
We look for Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, MSC, ASC, Proterra or FSC certification.
The Marine Conservation Society explain the need for sustainable fishing well, “Put simply…we’re in danger of running out of fish. We fish so much, some species can’t breed fast enough to replace themselves.” As a result more than 85% of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of management plans to restore them. This matters because fish is a source of protein for billions of people around the world, fishing is key to the economic survival of millions of people in the fishing industry and the overfishing of top predators, such as tuna, changes marine communities. Impact Score® Shopping therefore looks for products which are being sustainably and responsible sourced. For more detailed information on exactly what fish to look for the Good Fish Guide offers a comprehensive insight into which fish to eat, when and from where.
Marine Stewardship council (MSC)
In order to ascertain whether a fish has been caught sustainably we use labelling information to find out whether the fish has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent non-profit organisation that has become the de facto leader in sustainable fishing with its blue label well recognised by consumers in the UK. The MSC criteria are transparent and based on three principles: sustainable fish stocks; minimising environmental impact and effective management. A fishery that is certified is also subject to an annual audit. The MSC is a member of the ISEAL alliance.
Aquatic Stewardship Council (ASC)
In order to ascertain whether a fish has been farmed sustainably we use labelling information to find out whether the fish has been certified by the Aquatic Stewardship Council. Using the ASC label alongside the MSC label Impact Score® Shopping ensures that both fish caught in the wild and aquaculture fish are covered. Not only does aquaculture now cover 50% of the world’s edible fish production it is also an efficient converter of feed to high quality food and has a lower carbon footprint than some other animal production systems. The Aquatic Stewardship Council is an independent, non-profit, organisation, whose aim is to promote both environmental sustainability and social responsibility in the aquaculture supply chain. The ASC label recognises and rewards responsible aquaculture and is both transparent and rigorous with 150 performance indicators which cover areas including: protection of the surrounding ecosystems and biodiversity; stringent controls for the use of antibiotics; reduced usage of pesticides and chemicals; best practices that combat the spread of illness and parasites between farmed fish and wild fish and regulation of where farms can be sited to protect vulnerable nature areas. The ASC also ensures that the social rights and safety of those who work on the farms and live in the local communities are safeguarded. The ASC is a member of the ISEAL alliance.
Fair trade is a global movement based on the principles of achieving better trading conditions for farmers in developing countries whilst also promoting sustainable farming. Fair trade is therefore underpinned by consumers’ preferences that farmers should be paid a fair price and also a belief that this should further benefit sustainable development and reduce inequality. Since the 1980s, with the advent of fair trade labels, it has been an increasingly common sight in supermarkets with a focus on products such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, fresh fruit and chocolate.
Impact Score® Shopping therefore looks for products which are produced in a way that supports the principles of the fair trade movement such as those with a Fairtrade certification.
This is done through the Fairtrade Foundation, a UK charity and member of Fairtrade International, who are responsible for licensing the use of the Fairtrade mark on products. Certification is based on four common principles that cover development (economic, social and environmental) as well as a prohibition on the use of forced and child labour. Importantly Fairtrade certification also means that producers receive a minimum price and a premium which they can use, as they see fit, to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. The certification process is transparent, Fairtrade is a member of the ISEAL alliance and the Fairtrade mark is one of the most widely recognised by consumers both in the UK and around the world. Therefore in order to ascertain whether a product supports the fair trade principles we use labelling information to find out whether it has a Fairtrade label.
Rainforest Alliance (merged with UTZ in 2018)
UTZ is a Dutch non-governmental organisation (NGO) started in the 1990s with a focus on coffee. It is now the world’s largest sustainable coffee certifier and the 2018 merger with Rainforest Alliance further increased its coverage. Rainforest Alliance certification is transparent and rigorous following code of conduct and chain of custody guidelines and the Rainforest Alliance label is well know around Europe, although perhaps less so in the UK, and is a member of the ISEAL alliance. Rainforest Alliance primarily covers coffee, tea and cocoa. Although Rainforest Alliance does not have a fair trade price they do focus on “how farms are managed, with certification being awarded to farms that meet the comprehensive standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Standard, which encompasses all three pillars of sustainability—social, economic, and environmental—and empowers farmers with the knowledge and skills to negotiate for themselves in the global marketplace”.
Forests not only have an important role to play in mitigating climate change but they are also home to much of the world’s biodiversity. Deforestation may not only lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions during the clearing process, and the loss of important habitats, but it also removes the future potential for forests to soak up carbon dioxide. Therefore in order to ascertain whether a product is made from (as opposed to packaged in) materials that come from responsibly managed forests we use labelling information to find out whether it has a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification.
Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) follows a set of 10 principles which ensure that natural forests are conserved, endangered species and their habitats are protected and that forest workers and forest-dependent communities are respected. They also have a chain of custody certification which ensure forest products can be fully tracked from the forest to the end user. The FSC has seen broad consumer acceptance and follows transparent certification policies as well as being an independent, not-for-profit, organisation. FSC is a member of the ISEAL alliance.
Products from lower carbon footprint categories will help reduce the carbon emissions from your diet.
A green badge means the product is in a low carbon footprint category as defined by our criteria. A grey badge means it is medium, high or very high.
Less carbon emissions means less climate change. Reduce your footprint by choosing products from lower carbon footprint categories (instead of others!)
We analyse academic studies which calculate the carbon emissions from food and drink and link these studies to supermarket categories. We follow this approach because product level carbon footprints are extremely rare. The carbon footprint badge covers food and drink only.
Diets and carbon footprints
Around 13% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from agriculture. The largest source of GHG emissions within agriculture is “enteric fermentation” (cow belches) and emissions generated during the application of synthetic fertilizers which is also the fastest growing area. The agricultural process (as opposed getting the product from the farm to the consumer’s kitchen) is the largest contributor and within this different categories have widely different average GHG emissions.
As a result the choice of what we eat can have a large impact on our overall carbon footprint. Someone who eats low quantities of meat for example could have a dietary carbon footprint 35% lower than a high meat eater. A vegetarian might be 50% lower. However, it should also be noted that despite this people can further reduce their footprint by buying local and seasonal produce. Airfreighting significantly increases carbon footprint and it is also the case that processed food is likely to have a higher carbon footprint than unprocessed.
So to reduce the carbon footprint of a diet follow these three steps:
- Eat meat less often, especially red meat
- Buy local, seasonal product where possible
- Eat less processed food
Impact Score® Shopping therefore groups product categories into low, medium, high and very high carbon footprints. This is based on academic studies including Poore and Nemecek, WRAP and other major carbon footprint studies from around the world.
We link the food categories mentioned in the academic meta studies through Foodex which, in turn, is mapped to supermarket categories. This allows us to link academic studies to actual products since all products must belong to a category.
This estimation process would be greatly enchanced by product level carbon footprint data. However, at present only an extremely small number of products have this information available so category footprinting remains the most practical approach.
As well as category level footprint estimation we also check products for certain ingredients. For example any product containing beef (a very high carbon footprint ingredient) cannot be a low or medium carbon footprint. Similarly we analyse the data for products which are placed in categories where the estimation process needs refinement. For example some plant based milks may be categorised as milk.
The Sustainable Palm Oil badge is awarded to companies who are committed to 100% sustainable palm oil, are making good progress towards that target and who are leading the way by ensuring that the majority of their palm oil is separated from uncertified sources. We set a high hurdle for sustainable palm oil but believe this is important given the impact of unsustainable palm oil on deforestation and biodiversity.
A green badge is awarded to products which meet our sustainable palm oil criteria and which contain palm oil or a common palm oil derivative. A grey badge is awarded to those that do not.
Why is sustainable palm oil important? In some regions palm oil plantations have caused widespread deforestation which is a key contributor to climate change. These forests are also home to endangered species and places of great natural biodiversity with the resulting habitat loss leading some species, such as orangutans, to the edge of extinction. Lack of consultation with local communities about what happens to their land and worker rights are also a risk on some palm oil plantations.
We award the Sustainable Palm Oil badge when a company meets three criteria. Firstly they must show they are committed to sustainable palm oil with a plan to ensure that 100% of their physical supply chain is from sustainable palm oil by 2020. Secondly they must be making strong progress towards that commitment by getting at least 80% of the way there. Finally they should be leading the way by ensuring that the majority of their palm oil is separated from uncertified sources which means it must be segregated or identity preserved. Because climate change and unsustainable palm oil are global problems we analyse the palm oil usage for the entire company not just for individual brands or subsidiaries.
The data that we used is provided by the companies themselves. Companies who do not report to the RSPO on the type of palm oil that they use cannot be verified as using sustainable palm oil unless they provide on pack certification. We believe that transparency to consumers is a key element in evidencing that palm oil usage is sustainable.
Why is sustainable palm oil important?
Palm oil is used in many common products sold in the supermarket including margarine, ice cream, confectionery, biscuits, soap and cosmetics. Not only is palm oil a very high yielding crop (i.e. it is very efficient for farmers to grow) but it also has important properties such as being good for cooking at high heat, a creamy texture, no smell (so useful as an extra ingredient for cooking) and it’s a natural preservative. This explains why it is so common in the goods we buy.
However, unsustainable palm oil leads to a number of serious issues.
- Large scale deforestation. Palm trees thrive in humid conditions with Malaysia and Indonesia accounting for much of the global palm oil production and in these countries 50% of deforestation is due to palm oil. Indeed 18.7m hectares is used for industrial palm oil and 25m for smallholders. That’s the same size as the United Kingdom. Twice.
- Loss of habitat for endangered species. Orangutans are on the IUCN Red List and the number of Borneo orangutans has declined by 25% in the last decade. At this rate they will be extinct in our lifetime and only 14,600 are left. Many more species are at risk. Rainforest destruction caused by palm oil plantations threatens 190 species on the ICUN Red list.
- Climate change. Tropical forests and peatland are cleared for palm oil plantations but Indonesian forests are incredible stores of carbon dioxide. So much so that they store more carbon per acre than the Amazon. Peatlands can hold 18-28 times as much carbon as the forest above them and these are often also cleared for unsustainable palm oil plantations. As a result of this tropical deforestation accounts for 15% of global warming pollution. In fact, largely because of palm oil related deforestation, this makes Indonesia the world’s third largest emitter of global warming pollution as a result. Only China and the USA emit more.
- Social impact. Lack of consultation with local communities about what happens to their land and worker rights are also a risk on some palm oil plantations. A report from Friends of the Earth found that palm oil companies use forced labour.
- Air pollution. Each year, more than 100,000 deaths in Southeast Asia can be attributed to particulate matter exposure from landscape fires, many of which are peat fires.
Why not just avoid palm oil?
This is a valid response taken by many consumers. However, a number of NGOs support sustainable palm oil because replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land. Furthermore in producing countries, millions of farmers and their families work in the palm oil sector. Palm oil plays an important role in the reduction of poverty in these areas. In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production.
However, some people still choose to avoid palm oil because 1) it’s hard to know all whether palm oil is truly sustainable 2) the impacts are just too great to take the risk and 3) the certification around RSPO sustainable palm oil don’t go far enough especially in relation to deforestation.
How Impact Score® Shopping finds sustainable palm oil
In order to ascertain whether palm oil is sustainable we analyse the type of palm oil that companies use in their supply chain using data from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This data is provided to the RSPO by the companies themselves. The RPSO is a not-for-profit organisation that brings together companies and other organisations who are involved in the palm oil supply chain and which follows a transparent verification process. The data covers retailers and consumer goods manufacturers across the world and is updated each year. We look for three elements:
- Commitment – does the company have a time commitment to achieve sustainable palm oil from their physical supply chain by 2020 or have they already achieved it?
- Progress – does more than 80% of a company’s palm oil come from mass balanced, segregated or identity preserved? In order for this part of the scoring to be applicable the company must also be using at least 95% RSPO certified palm oil.
- Leading the way – more than 50% of palm oil from segregated or identity preserved.
These three criteria together set a high hurdle for sustainable palm oil and derivatives. However, hundreds of companies around the world and many of the UK’s best know retailers achieve these conditions. Moreover, when the risks of unsustainable palm oil are so great we believe that a high hurdle is appropriate.
Where a company does not report to the RSPO we do not award a badge as there is no way for us, or others, to verify its sustainability in relation to other palm oil. This is a particular issue for some large companies. For all companies we look at their overall usage, not national or product level, since unsustainable palm oil and deforestatation are global problems that require global solutions.
Our initial analysis was conducted using the 2017 ACOP data and we will update annually with the ACOP reporting process based on their annual deadline.
Some companies may be too small to report to RSPO so we also look for on pack product level certification.
The different types of palm oil
Mass Balance. This means that sustainable palm oil comes from certified sources but it is also mixed with uncertified, ordinary palm oil throughout supply chain. As such consumers know that enough sustainable palm oil has been made to manufacture their product but not that the product in their hand is definitively from sustainable sources.
Segregated. This means that sustainable palm oil from different certified sources is kept separate from ordinary palm oil throughout supply chain.
Identity preserved. The clearest form of sustainable palm oil as the palm oil comes from a single identifiable certified source is kept separate from ordinary palm oil throughout supply chain.
We do not include book and claim palm oil. With book and claim the supply chain is not monitored for the presence of sustainable palm oil. Manufacturers and retailers can buy Credits from RSPO-certified growers, crushers and independent smallholders.
Finding palm oil in products
The analysis above helps us to find companies who use sustainable palm oil. The next step is to ensure that palm oil, or certain palm oil derivatives, are present in a product. This is more challenging than it sounds since there are over 250 different names for palm oil, and its derivatives, some of which may not always be made from palm oil. We therefore look for a smaller group of names for palm oil which are likely or often made from palm oil (such as palm oil, palmitate or sodium laureth sulphate). This list of names we look for combines WWF’s palm oil list with our own research.
The Sustainable Palm Oil badge is therefore awarded as follows:
- If a product contains palm oil or its derivatives from a company that uses sustainable palm oil then the product is awarded a badge.
- If a product contains palm oil or its derivatives from a company that reports palm oil usage but does not meet our criteria for sustainable palm oil then it does not get a badge but gets a comment highlighting that they are moving in the right direction.
- If a product contains palm oil or its derivatives from a company that does not report palm oil usage then it does not get a badge and it gets a comment highlighting that we cannot verify that is contains sustainable palm oil.
An important note is that linking hundreds of thousands of products to thousands of brands and companies remains a work in progress. As a result sometimes a badge will not be awarded because we have been unable to make the link. In these cases we also say that we cannot verify that the product contains sustainable palm oil. Please contact us if you see a way to help us improve or for any further information.
Cleaning products which are better for the environment.
A green badge means the product passes our kinder cleaning criteria which is based on certification by independent organisations and company on pack information. A grey badges means it does not. The greener cosmetics badge applies to household cleaning products.
Understanding the ingredients that are used in the kitchen and bathroom products can be challenging for consumers. Although companies are obliged to provide a public, complete ingredients list they do not have to list this on the product. This can make it very difficult to know what the product actually contains. Impact Score® Shopping aims to help by awarding a Kinder Cleaning badge to household and bathroom products which consider their environmental impact either through thinking about the entire manufacturing process and / or which aim to use more natural ingredients. Furthermore the use of non toxic and natural chemicals should reduce any potentially adverse health effects.
The independent certifiers that we look for include Ecolabel, Ecocert, Cradle to Cradle, the Soil Association and EU Organic. We also look at on pack information confirming that the product is plant based, mineral based or safe for septic tanks.
Cradle to Cradle Certified
The Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five categories — material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. On material health, this standard follows a stringent methodology to determine whether products contain one or more substances that have the potential to adversely impact human or environmental health, and specifically lists chemicals and substances that are banned for use in Cradle to Cradle Certified products.
EU Ecolabel for consumers
To qualify for the EU Ecolabel, products have to comply with a tough set of criteria. These environmental criteria, set by a panel of experts from a number of consumer organisations and industry, take the whole product life cycle into account – from the extraction of the raw materials, to production, packaging and transport, right through to use and recycling. This life cycle approach guarantees that the products’ main environmental impacts are reduced in comparison to similar products on the market. With regards to ingredients, the EU Ecololabel criteria specify substances that cannot be included in products in order to reduce or prevent environmental and human health related risks.
We also use Soil Association, EU Organic, USDA (as evidence of organic production) and Ecocert which has transparent criteria underpinned by clear basic principles to: protect the planet and its resources; to inform the consumer and to reduce unnecessary waste and discharge.
Company marketing statements
At present the coverage by third parties of kitchen and bathroom products is not as comprehensive as in other areas. Therefore, where companies clearly state that they are using natural ingredients we also award a kinder cleaning badge.
The Benefits of "Naturally derived" Products with an indication that they have been derived naturally will have ingredients made from renewable plant-based materials, abundant minerals and/or water. Such products will be non-toxic, meaning that they are unlikely to cause an adverse health effect in normal or foreseeable use. However, this does not mean a product will not cause any allergic reaction or irritation in any person, as some individuals may have still have some form of allergic reaction or irritation to certain naturally derived ingredients or products. We also include a product if it is septic tank friendly because products that go into a septic tank safely need to decompose naturally.
Our view is that all ingredients should be on the label. This would make it much easier for consumer to understand what’s in their products and whether it fits with their requirements.
Products that are organic or which use more natural ingredients.
A green badge means the product passes our greener cosmetics criteria which is based on certification by independent organisations and company on pack information. A grey badge means it does not. The greener cosmetics badge applies to skin and haircare products.
Organic certification standards aim to protect the environment, maximise use of renewable resources and recycling, minimise pollution, waste and processing, while protecting local wildlife and animal welfare too. More companies are also using natural ingredients.
Company on pack information
At present the coverage by third parties of cosmetics products is not as comprehensive as in other areas. Therefore, where companies clearly state that they are using natural or organic ingredients (e.g. “certified natural”) we also award a Greener Cosmetics badge.
The Plant Based badge is awarded to food and drink that come from plants.
A green badge is awarded to products which meet our plant based criteria. These are fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and grains as well as food products which are classified as suitable for vegans by the manufacturer or certified by a third party.
The benefits of Plant Based
Plant based food is an important part of a sustainable diet because plant based products typically have a lower environmental impact (less carbon, less land use, less water use) than other products. Moreover, a healthy diet should include fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g. lentils and beans), nuts and whole grains and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Contains fewer chemicals that are associated with irritation. Also avoids chemicals that have been linked to health or environmental risks.
A red badge means the product does not contain any ingredients on Impact Score® Shopping’s list of chemicals of concern. A grey badge means we found one, or more, chemicals of concern. The badge applies to skin and haircare products which includes cosmetics and personal care items.
Some chemicals in personal products cause skin irritation for some people. Others have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and infertility. Impact Score® Shopping’s checklist has been compiled from a number of sources which cite common chemicals of concern including the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Breast Cancer UK and the David Suzuki Foundation.
Due to different names for the same ingredient, abbreviations and other issues Impact Score® Shopping’s list will necessarily evolve over time. Always check the label if there are particular chemicals which you are concerned about.
The No Chemicals of Concern badge is awarded to skin and haircare products which do not contain any ingredients on Impact Score® Shopping’s chemicals of concern list.
Deciphering the ingredients list for cosmetics
Understanding the ingredients list on most cosmetics is difficult for the vast majority of users. Not only are the terms often highly scientific (e.g. the first ingredient on one of the UK’s top selling deodorants is Aluminium Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly) but there are also a large number of terms to understand. A global database of cosmetics ingredients currently contains over 22,000 cosmetic ingredients names.
Consumers increasingly want to understand what they are putting on their skin but it remains a challenging area to understand. The main concern that many consumers have is around irritation caused by certain products. This has led to an increasing number of products on the market that are, for example, sulphate free. Moreover, there have been growing concerns that some ingredients are potentially harmful to human health with links to cancer and effects on the reproductive system being two of the most commonly cited concerns.
Women and girls are particularly at risk as higher use of personal care and cosmetic products leads to higher exposure. Whilst the amount of exposure, the length of exposure, other factors and uncertainty make it almost impossible to determine a direct link many consumers take the approach that they would rather not take the risk.
As a result Impact Score® Shopping has compiled a list of commonly cited chemicals of concern using a number of sources. These are the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a US based not-for profit), Breast Cancer UK (following their #ditchthejunk campaign), the David Suzuki Foundation (a Canadian charity) and Wikidata (reference for alternative names which is a pressing issue in this area). An increasing number of retailers now also have their own checklists and will not stock products containing chemicals listed on it. Furthermore many brands are also launching products that avoid the most commonly cited chemicals often alongside their traditional brand portfolios.
This list can never be fully comprehensive or complete so always check the label. We look to our users to help us to evolve the list over time so it focuses on what they most care about. The full list is available on request.
Awarding the badge
We then compare this list against ingredients on the label and products without chemicals of concern are awarded a badge. The list includes a number of ingredients or groups that consumers most often cite as concerning such as: parabens, phthalates, siloxanes, aluminum salts, Triclosan, Formaldehyde, sulphates and ethanolamines. However, with so many chemicals, and the use of different names for those chemicals, users should always use additional research if they want to exclude certain chemicals from their personal care basket.
Cut back on processed foods by selecting products which are free from additives.
A red badge means the product meets our criteria for being free from additives. A grey badge means we found one, or more, additives.
Additives, which includes E numbers, are used for purposes such as preserving, colouring, flavouring and sweetening. They can be defined as any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself. More additives usually means more processing and some worry about the health impacts of certain additives too.
Impact Score® Shopping’s list of additives is based on European legislation for additives. Fortifiers and store cupboard ingredients are not included in the additives list.
Why avoid additives?
An increasing number of consumers are looking for products that have fewer additives whether they are colours, preservatives, flavours, sweeteners, artificial or other added ingredients. More broadly there is also greater demand for products that are simply less processed.
The move away from added ingredients is in part due to concerns about the health effects of some of the ingredients added to food and drink both in the short term (e.g. the effect that certain added colours may have on children’s behaviour) and in the long term driven by concerns about the potential effect of consuming large amounts of additives in small doses over a lifetime.
But what are additives? The EU describes them simply as “any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself…”. E numbers are the code names for additives approved for use in Europe. A popular shortcut for consumers is therefore to avoid products that contain E numbers although this is complicated by the increasingly common use of E Number scientific names in the ingredients list and the challenge of understanding hundreds of E numbers some of which some consumers may not be concerned about (e.g. E300 which is Ascorbic acid which is actually Vitamin C; or E260 which is Acetic acid which is actually vinegar, a store cupboard ingredient). There are also other highly processed additives that are not on the E Numbers lists.
In terms of processing the clean eating movement has been part of a wider trend towards less processed food with consumers questioning why ingredients are added to replace the taste lost during processing or in order to extend shelf life where the benefits may seem to accrue to companies in the supply chain as opposed to consumers. Increasingly consumers believe that unprocessed food just tastes better and want to have transparency about what is going into their food. Finally, processed food may also be more energy intensive to produce and therefore have a higher carbon footprint.
To navigate this challenging environment, we have aimed to keep the Free from Additives badge as simple as possible. Impact Score® Shopping looks on the label for products which contain additives, using both the FSA’s additives list as well as list of other additives which are not commonly consumed as food. If a product contains an additive then the product is not awarded the Free from Additives badge.
As always users should read the label and if you want to help us improve the badge scoring please get in touch. Our principles are that Impact Score® Shopping’s badges should be simple to understand, represent what our users want to see and backed by evidence.
Lower fat, lower sugar, lower salt – helps prevent serious health problems and keeps the waistline trim!
A red badge means the product passes our criteria to be a healthier option. A grey badges means it does not.
Choosing products which are lower in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt helps reduce risk of serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and obesity.
We follow the UK government guidelines on nutrition content per 100g or look at amounts per serving if above that. Only products with no "reds" can be awarded the healthier option badge. All fruit and veg are classified as healthier options as they are a vital source of vitamins and minerals and should make up just over a third of the food we eat each day.
Eating more healthily
Around the world many people are concerned that they are overweight, want to lose weight and the majority want to cut back on fat and sugar whilst eating more natural and fresh foods at the same time.
Whilst different diet plans shift in popularity through time there is consistent advice provided by health organisations, such as the WHO and NHS, which focuses on eating a balanced diet (i.e. a variety of food), plenty of vegetables and fruit, moderate amounts of fat and less salt and sugar.
Impact Score® Shopping therefore looks on the label for information that helps consumers understand whether a product is a healthier option by following the Food Standards Agency Front of Pack nutrition labelling methodology which provides traffic lights on food and drink based on fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content. This is combined with advice from the NHS:
- the more green on the label the healthier the choice
- amber means neither high nor low so you can eat foods with all of mostly amber on the label most of the time
- red means food high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar and these are foods we should cut down on
For healthier options Impact Score® Shopping therefore awards a badge to products that have green and amber ratings.
Animals reared with higher animal welfare standards have better living conditions.
A blue badge means the product passes our animal welfare criteria which is based on certification by independent organisations. A grey badges means it does not and it is in a category where animal welfare is relevant.
Higher animal welfare standards mean that animals have more space to move around and also cover other important areas such as feed, antibiotic use and living conditions.
We look for certification from independent sources including the Soil Association, EU Organic and RSPCA Assured.
Animal welfare in the UK
The UK public’s concern for animal welfare has always been high and in recent years it has been increasing. Not only is the UK, "a nation of animal lovers" but a focus on animal welfare also means that animals live healthier and more active lives resulting in better quality product. Farmers also report that higher welfare standards improves their working environment and job satisfaction.
Impact Score® Shopping uses a number of certification standards to ascertain if a product is supported by good animal welfare standards.
The Soil Association is the UK’s leading organic certifier offering certification schemes across food, health and beauty and textiles. It has been a pioneer campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food since 1946 and is a charity that is able to act independently when certifying products. The Soil Association’s criteria are transparent and it’s logo is widely recognised and trusted by consumers across the UK.
As well as being associated with organic farming the Soil Association also requires high animal welfare standards for certification. Animals must be truly free range and the Soil Association standards cover: living conditions such as access to plenty of space; food quality (including as natural as possible diet free from genetically modified organisms); antibiotic use (which should not be routinely given); transport and slaughter.
The RSPCA farm animal welfare assurance scheme is owned by the RSPCA but is a charity in its own right and operates independently.
For a product to be labelled RSPCA Assured all aspects of the animal’s life must have been covered by the RSPCA's welfare standards which, as a leading animal welfare charity, are comprehensive. They are based on scientific evidence and industry experience and include: feed and water provision; the environment animals live in; how they are managed; healthcare; transport and humane slaughter.
A proportion of the members are monitored annually and the RSPCA has high consumer acceptance as the most recognised animal welfare charity in the UK.
The EU Organic logo ensures that organic means the same for consumers and producers across the EU. EU legislation is detailed and rigorous and it is continuously reviewed whilst the "Euro Leaf" has become familiar to consumers across the UK in recent years. The certification standard ensures that organic operators are also reviewed annually. The EU’s definition of organic is refreshingly clear stating, "Put simply, organic farming is an agricultural system that seeks to provide you, the consumer, with fresh, tasty and authentic food while respecting natural life-cycle systems."
To support this the EU follows a number of objectives, principles and practices. For farmers this includes practices such as strict limits on fertilizer usage and free-range, open-air livestock. EU organic animal welfare standards also covers feed (must not contain substances that artificially promote growth or GMOs), strict rules on living conditions with access to natural light and air and includes rules for transport.
We also include “Outdoor bred” claims for pork products which is supported by Compassion in World Farming.
A blue badge means that the product has met our criteria to confirm it has not been tested on animals. The badge applies to skin and haircare products, which includes cosmetics and personal care items, as well as household cleaning products.
We use independent third party certification as well as manufacturers’ claims to verify no animal testing. We may also check company websites for more detail on their animal testing policy if this is not detailed on the label. Data from websites is cross checked with PETA’s Don’t Test list of brands and companies. Independent certifiers we use include Leaping Bunny, the Vegan Society, NATRUE and BDIH.
The badge covers the product or brand which manufacturers the product. It does not cover the ultimate owner of the product. We appreciate that this is less stringent than required by some users and recommend PETA and the Naturewatch Foundation in those circumstances.
Background on animal testing
Animal tests for cosmetic use are increasingly being replaced as better scientific methods become available and also because an increasing number of countries, including the EU, have banned the practice. Moreover 79% of consumers report that they would switch brands if the cosmetic they are using involved the forced suffering of animals and encouragingly 37 countries around the world now have some form of animal testing ban.
However, some countries require, and some companies continue to use, animal testing and so Impact Score® Shopping uses a number of certification standards to ascertain if a product is certified as not involved in animal testing. These include Cruelty Free International, NATRUE, BDIH and the Vegan Society. We also recognise on-pack manufacturer’s claims of no animal testing if it is put on the product label.
Historically much of the focus on animal testing has been on cosmetics. However, animal testing is also used for household cleaning products which the EU ban does not cover. We therefore look for the same certification process in this area.