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HowGood adds procurement module to sustainability database

HowGood, touted as “the world’s largest product and ingredient sustainability database,” added a procurement module to its Latis sustainability intelligence platform on Thursday.

The Brooklyn, New York-based company started with a platform based on R&D to find more sustainable suppliers or practices specifically for new consumer packaged goods (CPG) and food products. 

The procurement module will help connect the dots between the sustainability metrics for ingredients and how that information translates into products, according to Ethan Soloviev, chief innovation officer at HowGood. He said this will give companies more accurate information for sustainability reporting and marketing. 

HowGood tracks several sustainability metrics across the entire supply chain from growing an ingredient such as soy in a field all the way through processing, to brands and then to retailers and consumers. Companies currently value the metrics in this order: carbon emissions, water usage and biodiversity, followed by human rights and labor risk tied for fourth place, Soloviev told FreightWaves.

“The most important [metric] right now is carbon. Carbon is the new calorie. Major companies are making major moves to label carbon on all of their products,” Soloviev said. “I’m not going to say it’s easy to measure, but it’s easier in some ways than some of the qualitative metrics to track.”

It’s hard to quantify what impacts ingredients or products have in terms of metrics like animal welfare, human rights or biodiversity.

Danone and Applegate are among the CPG companies already using the Latis module, and Danone plans to use the procurement module.

“HowGood’s Latis platform is helping us rapidly visualize the social and environmental impact of our products down to an ingredient level,” Gemma Brierley, global director of sustainable sourcing and human rights at Danone, said in the release. “We’re very excited about the launch of the procurement module, which will deepen our understanding of the impact of each ingredient used in our products and help us identify suppliers whose sourcing practices align with our sustainability goals.”

Ingredient, product, marketing data

HowGood has information about 33,000 ingredients and 2 million products. While there are some platforms that track sustainability metrics for ingredients, Soloviev said HowGood is unique because it translates the individual ingredient data to give companies a full picture of the impacts for each of their products.

“It works at the product level, and it can compare not just this soy ingredient versus that soy ingredient, but how did that roll up into a product? That’s what they’re communicating. That’s what they’re selling. That’s what consumers actually look at is the product, not the ingredient. It’s the combination of the two that’s really distinguished,” Soloviev said.

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in the environmental and social impacts of the products they buy, and providing that information from suppliers to companies to consumers could give them a competitive advantage. 

“The procurement module helps tie all of that together so that the brands can market it properly,” Soloviev said. With more insights into sustainability metrics from suppliers, companies can look at the product level to figure out what claims they can make about each product.

Simplifying scope 3 emissions, finding sustainable suppliers

Many companies are feeling pressure to reduce their carbon footprint, including emissions along their supply chains (scope 3). But companies need the data to calculate their scope 3 before they can reduce those emissions, which is proving to be a challenge in many industries such as CPG.

“It (the platform) basically speeds up the process of scope 3 emissions calculation by about 1000x because we have a database of 33,000 different ingredients, chemicals and materials. We have all of the impacts from every form of transportation, plus from all of the different packaging. Basically, all companies need to do is put some really simple information into the platform, and it will, within minutes, calculate the scope 3 carbon footprint,” Soloviev said.

HowGood’s database can calculate an overview of scope 3 emissions quickly, but that scope 3 footprint is only as accurate as the numbers and information used as inputs. That’s why the Latis platform has eight different classifications to describe how granular, or specific, the data is. 

If a company knows generally where its soy comes from, and what the supplier’s growing practices are, it can incorporate that more precise data to get more accurate metrics such as carbon emissions. 

Read: Finding sustainable suppliers — Net-Zero Carbon

Soloviev said the platform helps companies understand which areas they can improve the granularity of their data, depending on the type of sustainability reporting they want to do. Some suppliers can provide specific information about exactly where the farm that grows the ingredient is located, how much fertilizer and pesticides were applied and how much fuel was used to produce it.

“As the food industry grapples with calls to improve transparency and reduce its footprint, the procurement module boosts the efficacy of procurement teams by providing an easy-to-use platform for buyers to identify the ingredients most negatively impacting their portfolios, discover and compare new suppliers offering more sustainably sourced ingredients, and demonstrate the impact of any supplier change through an advanced scenario-planning interface,” Soloviev said.

Transportation is one of the smaller portions of the pie from end to end. Soloviev said it typically makes up 3% to 11% of a product’s overall carbon footprint. But HowGood is relying largely on industry average data for freight and transportation sustainability metrics.

Soloviev said that if freight companies provided primary data about which routes they take, how much fuel they use, whether they use any sustainable fuels and what efficiency improvements they have made, it would give companies a more accurate picture of their transportation-related carbon emissions.

“It [the procurement module] will help the buyers and the companies understand the difference between the energy used to grow the soy versus the energy to transport it, versus the footprint of processing it and manufacturing it, versus the footprint when it goes downstream and is transported again to the retailer all the way to the consumer. So it helps to break out the different stages of the life cycle,” Soloviev said.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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