Eco-score: from idea to implementation
July 1, 2021

Carrefour embarked on an ambitious program aiming at making our e-commerce more sustainable, all along the value chain. Products are at the end of this value chain. Offering tools to our online customers is key when it comes to giving them the power to buy in line with their convictions! Thus, since mid-June, has been displaying the Eco-score, a environmental indicator for all food products – whether they are from the Carrefour brand or other national brands. 

In this article you will discover our journey to implement the Eco-score.

The starting point: making our e-commerce more sustainable 

E-commerce is a key pillar of Carrefour’s 2022 plan. Unveiled in 2018, the plan embodies the goal of bringing eating well -healthy, fresh, organic, local food- to within everyone’s reach. To become the world’s leader in the food transition for everyone, we identified four key areas in which we are working on both a global and a local level. One of them aims at creating a leading omnichannel ecosystem uniting stores and e-commerce. To become the leader in online food shopping by 2022, Carrefour is focusing on consumer needs and developing the solutions and services that will enable us to achieve our goals. Our objective is to reach €4,2 bn in e-commerce sales by 2022.

However, e-commerce has a significant environmental impact all along the value chain (sourcing, warehousing, delivery, products, etc). Aware of that impact, Carrefour launched an initiative called “sustainable e-commerce”. A couple of months back, we gathered all our stakeholders in a private / public consultation to identify concrete initiatives and different rooms for improvements. Carrefour collaborators, but also ADEME, Cogepart, Phenix, Too Good To Go, STEF, Mirakl, Alter Equity, FEVAD, students, customers and many others have identified 15 initiatives to be deployed by Carrefour to reduce the carbon footprint of our e-commerce. Among this pool of initiatives, some will be carried out throughout the year and others are long term such as reducing the IT carbon footprint. 

After a thorough analysis of the feasibility and impact of each project, we have prioritized projects to implement in the upcoming months. For instance, Carrefour decided to open its marketplace, granting free-of-charge access to small producers and SMEs so they can reach their customers during the sanitary crisis and starting their e-commerce business without any marketing effort. Another prioritized project idea was about implementing an environmental score on our website which we will tell you all about!

The Eco-score, the most easily scalable food environmental scoring currently available

It is not surprising that environmental food scoring emerged as one of the top ideas during the stakeholders consultation. Indeed, in France, food is responsible for 24% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Aware of the significant carbon footprint of food, customers are more and more willing to consume sustainable products. Today, 73% of French people have a greater desire to consume responsibly following the Covid pandemic.

At that time, Carrefour had already set up nutritional systems based on both the Nutri-score and Innit on its e-commerce site The Nutri-score, developed by the French Public Authorities, is displayed on the products’ pages and is well known by the public. As for Innit, over 78K personalized accounts were created by our customers, granting them a personalized Innit score displayed directly on the products’ page. 

Then came the “how”. How can we, as Carrefour, provide online scoring to customers so that they can wisely adapt their consumption? We benchmarked different available environmental scores and tested them and we set our sights on the Eco-score

The indicator was developed by a group of independent actors (Yuka, Eco2 initiative, ScanUp, Open Food Facts, Etiquettable, Frigo Magic, La Fourche, FoodChéri, Marmiton and Seazon) in the field of consumer product information. Based on scientific literature and the  AGRIBALYSE®’s database owned by ADEME (the French Agency for Ecological Transition), they have developed and made available to the public a simple and understandable environmental indicator based on a transparent, scalable and adaptable method to a wide variety of food products. The Eco-score rates all food products from A to E. 

To design impactful initiatives, ask your customers 

Our clients being our compass, we decided to ask them what they were thinking about food environmental scoring. We organized customers’ roundtables to test the Eco-score. Unsurprisingly and besides a plethora of online studies addressing this point, we were able to confirm that customers were particularly keen on knowing the environmental impact of each product they were buying. Additionally, we collected some unexpected insights: 

1 – Cohabiting 3 scores: a complexity yet enabling customers to have more available information 

Customers understood how the score system works – it is something well rooted thanks to the Nutri-score but also apps such as Yuka. However, after the different feedback received, as aforementioned, customers expressed the need for an environmental indicator. 

Adding the Eco-score was going to complicate the reading of the product’s page, since customers will have 3 different scores – and sometimes contradictory ones: a product can have a low Nutri-score but a high Eco-score or vice versa. In that case, we observed different behaviours depending on the product category. For instance, our customers know that the Nutri-score of chocolate will be somewhat bad. In that case, for the same Nutri-score, they will choose the product with a better Eco-score. 

Nonetheless, adding the Eco-score will grant them a rich set of information – and having access to an environmental indicator was requested and expected by our customers. 

2 – Being able to define what environmental impact is

Every single customer has his/her own definition of what should be considered when evaluating environmental impact. Of course, there is consensus around some criteria such as the origin (did this carrot grow in France?) or the means of transportation (did this carrot arrive by plane or by truck?). But defining the right set of criteria is not enough as weight has to be affected to each in order to calculate an aggregate score. And of course, customers have different affinities: while some put origin as the top criteria, others choose impact on threatened species as the top criteria to be considered.   

3 – Trust is key  

Last but not least, displaying a score is one thing. Making it reliable from the customer point of view is another. When it comes to displaying product information, whether it is linked to health or environment, trust is key. One of the first questions from our customers was: who will calculate the score and will be responsible for the results? Customers were satisfied to see Carrefour acting on this topic but expected a third party to make the calculation. For them, it is a guarantee that Carrefour is not intentionally scoring a product good or bad. To guarantee the quality of the scores, Carrefour’s MDC products’ scores are audited by one of the members of the group that created the Eco-score. 

Setting up the Eco-score for 

Now that we knew what our customers wanted, we needed to put ourselves in marching order in order to display the Eco-score on the French e-commerce website –
We set up a close-up team of innovation project managers, the quality team and PO/PM’s from Carrefour France’s e-commerce teams. Our partner in enrichment, ConsoTrust, assumed responsibility for aggregating product information required to calculate the products’ scores from the MDC. We worked together for several months and we launched the project on June 22, 2021.

In the end, we decided to score all eligible products on 

  • MDC: scoring these products was a huge step for Carrefour. 
  • MN (i.e: Danone, Herta, Lu etc.): based on Open Food Fact’s food database.

The scores can be different from one product family to another (e.g. tomato sauce vs. meat) but they are relatively close within the same product family. This is due to the fact that the first part of the calculation (the one based on the life cycle) is actually done at the scale of the product family (e.g. two tomato sauces will have the same result on this first part). The difference lies in the second part of the equation: the bonuses / malus part. 

Let’s take the example of a Carrefour wholemeal loaf, made from French wheat flour with only one partially recyclable package, scores 88/100 and is rated A. On the other hand, the ham, made from European pork, with 2 packages, gets an E grade.  

At launch, we were able to display the scores of 32 000 MDC and national brands’ products. Although we are the first French retailer to display the Eco-score, this scope is still intended to be expanded as the data is completed. We are confident that we will eventually cover an even larger share of the products on! 

What’s next? 

Displaying the Eco-score on was a huge opportunity thanks to an evolving ecosystem that has advanced and progressed for the past few years as well as a societal effect. Today Carrefour is trying its best to respond to societal expectations and it is within this prism that we are testing the display of the Eco-score

The objective is to test the Eco-score for a couple of months in order to get customer feedback and analyze it. In October, we will make the results of this test public. We truly believe that by enabling our customers to have a more transparent way of consuming, they will make their purchases while being conscious of what is “behind” their product.

Of course, we are encouraging other companies to display the Eco-score – the more, the merrier! It is also a strategic position since the French government should legislate on an environmental score in the upcoming months and we believe it is our responsibility to participate in such an experiment in order to answer our customers’ needs. Carrefour will switch to the official Eco-score chosen by the government when it will be adopted by public authorities. 

Check our other articles on sustainability!

About the Author

Innovation Project Manager Diane works as a project manager in the Innovation team helping countries in diverse projects ranging from food transition to digital projects. Group Project Manager Zoe in charge of the Horizons by Carrefour initiative. Digital & marketing enthusiast. She has a bilingual cooking blog!

What’s new?