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Assisting Upfield to Calculate the Carbon Upside of Plant-based Food

August 23, 2021 | News,

We’re excited to have worked with Upfield, using our draft methodology, to enable them to estimate the benefits of their plant-based product portfolios. It is equally as exciting to have begun a process of developing something that can support other organisations to articulate the role their products can have in food-system transformation. We invite businesses, policymakers and stakeholders to help support and collaborate in order to refine the approach and look forward to the next stage in the journey.
Simon Davis
Agrifood Lead at Anthesis



Anthesis worked with plant-based food company, Upfield, to estimate the carbon benefits of plant-based food using its portfolio footprinting method.

The portfolio-based comparative carbon footprinting methodology aims to demonstrate the beneficial impacts of different products to support investors and policymakers in their decision making. The methodology allows Upfield to estimate the carbon emissions avoided by its portfolio in comparison to alternative products such as Dairy.

This industry-leading approach is the first step in setting the standard for a consistent framework and methodology to allow companies to quantify the benefits of their lower-impact products, highlighting the difference between food companies and the portfolio of products they offer. The project complements Upfield’s ambition to achieve “better than net zero” emissions by 2050.

Find out more from Upfield

The value of different footprinting approaches:

  • Traditional operational footprinting approaches support internal understanding. This enables companies to set carbon targets to reduce emissions and demonstrate and communicate the value of good management practices to external audiences.
  • Product footprinting (and labelling) supports consumer communications. It helps consumers to identify and purchase products based on their environmental strengths, either as a stand-alone product footprint or relative to ‘conventional’ alternatives. There are also huge benefits for companies as it enables them to understand where their impacts lie and where to target improvements.




Unlike traditional operational and product footprinting, which help companies to reduce emissions and inform consumers, comparative portfolio footprinting is aimed at those looking at the company level. The goal is to support investors and policymakers to clearly see the benefits of different product groups and quantify the impact of a move towards them. Ultimately it is about creating the drivers to produce systemic, sustainable change in the way we produce and consume food.

Anthesis’ portfolio footprinting methodology utilises detailed peer-reviewed and published Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data, which measures the total environmental impact of a product, including agricultural inputs, ingredient production, manufacture, packaging, transport and usage. It then uses sales data to scale it up to a portfolio-level footprint.

This work coincides with the launch of a white paper and industry roundtable discussion with the longer-term aim to start a dialogue with key stakeholders to gain their feedback on the draft methodology, how it could evolve, and the value it can create for different organisations in estimating the carbon benefits of different foods and portfolios.


Sally Smith, Head of Sustainability at Upfield commented, “As a theoretical calculation it shows the scale of the opportunity for plant-based foods to help tackle the climate impact of the food system. We encourage policymakers and stakeholders to consider the insight from this approach and its implications for sustainable diets worldwide, and we look forward to continuing to advance this methodology for the wider industry, through further collaboration with our peers, scientists and standard setters”



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