Adapt or die? Climate footprints choose ‘Adapt’

Why do I have to pay and collect data for these lifecycle assessments every darn year? And, for crying out loud, why do my climate footprints have to change when I just printed the labels; when I sent out the press release five days ago? Because, like everything else in the world, that is what climate footprints do: They change. Why should I be happy about that? Because you can adapt to change: You understand it, act on it, and get better.

Climate change amplifies what evolution proved: Adapt or die. In parallel, the food industry is facing a chain of change reactions: Climate change, scientific growth, production change, and soon enough, legislation change. If food brands are to survive this change and stay around, they need a plan. Nevertheless, to craft said plan, they need to know what to adapt to.

What do we know about climate change and food?

We know enough about the production systems and the science to calculate climate footprints in a meaningful way, but we do not have complete information. The science behind the mechanisms that cause emissions is mature: we know how the mechanisms work and how to measure and calculate the emissions. The same cannot be said about the related data collection processes. They are not as mature, but they are getting there rapidly – they are getting better. The food industry can become better with them: Get clearer insights, make more effective business decisions with a larger impact on reducing their climate footprints, track how much better they are becoming.

As reality changes and our understanding grows, we are apt to adapt to it – and to get to the better side.

Don’t forget this: going from good to better is still a change. This is what the change in climate footprints means: It is a move towards the better. However, to get better, we need to adapt first.

How do we get better?

At CarbonCloud, we simply will not pass an opportunity to get better. We have set out to make trustworthy claims and to deliver on that, we must embrace that we have much to learn still. A climate footprint is not a social construct. There is an actual reality out there and the climate footprint assessment is an ever-growing attempt of understanding its mechanisms and describing them. Our understanding grows in light of new scientific findings and new incoming data – about yield, electricity, and transport systems. This is the answer to why climate footprints change: As reality changes and our understanding grows, we are apt to adapt to it – and to get to the better side.

Having said that, we will also not pass the opportunity to put this crunched, better depiction of change in the hands of food producers. Any food brand that decides to go transparent with their climate footprints commits to making their climate performance better. Knowing and letting others know with a label is only the beginning. If this food brand wants to still sell their products in the future, when we are close to having solved climate change, they need a post-label plan.

How can you possibly track whether your plan is effective, which actions are successful –or even relevant– with static data? This is the answer to why the updates are continuous– and most importantly, why it is a platform: To give food producers the same chance that we have, to adapt, to become better, to survive (minus the data and knowledge-crunching part).

And what if my climate footprints get higher?

This is not a failure, it is a success. It means that the scientific process is functioning and that we improve our understanding of the problem at hand and our role in solving it. No food producer should ever be blamed for improving their assessments. It is an opportunity to rectify an underestimation – it is, once again, understanding deeper what it takes to survive, to adapt better and faster.

What are we adapting to?

So which parts of reality are we understanding better, i.e., what triggers a change? This is the growth chart of our climate footprint knowledge:

Changes to production

Any change in action around how the product is produced falls into this category. Changes can either be driven actively to reduce emissions (e.g, efficiency improvements), or passively by a change in the world, such as new yield data. Active changes show that you are closer to solving the climate problem. Some examples are switching to renewable energy on a production line, using a different distribution network, or changing an ingredient.

Changes to production can:

  • Move the results in either direction, but most active decisions can be expected to move the results downwards.
  • Be performed by a producer or by CarbonCloud.

Data improvements

These apply to improved measurements or access to newly available data. Some examples are better resolution for energy usage at a factory or better transport distance data from a logistics partner. A change in this category means that the assessment is closer to the truth and the producer has access to better data for future business decisions.

Data improvements can:

  • Move the results in either direction.
  • Be performed by a producer or by CarbonCloud.

Error correction

Mistakes can always slip through. Sometimes a decimal point ends up in the wrong place or a processing step is omitted by mistake, even by people who have access to the information. This category is for amending such mistakes.

Error correction can:

  • Move the results in either direction.
  • Be performed by a producer or by CarbonCloud.

Change in science

Science constantly makes progress as our understanding of the world gets put to the test in research projects. CarbonCloud keeps track of the scientific progression in relevant domains and adds it to the platform to automatically update the footprint assessments. Food producers get swift access to peer-reviewed scientific advancement when a new understanding of a relevant mechanism is established.

Change in science can:

  • Move the results in either direction.
  • Be performed by CarbonCloud.

Change in scope

System boundaries can be drawn in different ways depending on the goal. The system boundaries at CarbonCloud are drawn to serve three goals:

  1. Keep the best possible fidelity towards reality, i.e., to be truth-seeking;
  2. Depicting all products and producers on the platform fairly, i.e., to measure everyone with the same yardstick;
  3. The incentive structure is aligned with the solution to climate change.

As science progresses there may be occasions calling for changes in scope, as in which mechanisms get included or excluded from an assessment. No change in scope is made unless it can be fairly applied across the board. A concrete example is deforestation (land-use change), added to the agricultural data during spring 2021 – an addition that shifted most results upwards.

Change in scope can:

  • Move the results in either direction.
  • Be performed by CarbonCloud.

With changes in climate footprints, we aim to show you the change with the highest possible fidelity. We also aim to give you the most equipped toolbox to use in your adaption to climate change. We will all get better – one change at a time