Migros' M-Check for more transparent consumption
With the motto "We are not 100% sustainable. But we are 100% honest", Migros has launched its upgraded M-Check label with the ultimate plan to cover 80% of its Migros branded products by 2025.
M-Check is not a proper, formal eco-label, but a "sustainability ranking" aiming at providing consumers with clear, simple and transparent grades of the products'environmental performance, and helping them make counscious purchasing decisions in their daily life.
The launch of this "upgraded M-Check" applies so far to dairy and meat products only, and reviews and discloses the products' performance against a carbon footprint indicator (in CO2eq/kg) and another one covering animal welfare in different ways (e.g. free range living, air and environmental quality, transportation, etc...)
It is expected that it covers more sustainability indicators in the future, to complement Migros' existing initiatives on topics such as plastics, packaging, biodiversity or energy and environmental management.
Each indicator is designed to grade a product by using a 5-stars ranking that was discussed and validated by external partners like treeze, WWF, myclimate and the Haute école des sciences agronomiques, forestières et alimentaires HAFL. These organizations have set up, reviewed and guaranteed the applied methodology.
Migros discloses on its website what the stars actually mean in terms of the products' performance: 1 star involves a poor environmental performance (very high CO2 equivalent content, or a poor result on the animal welfare indicator), while a 5 means a very good grade.
The way to achieve these stars is transparently disclosed online, as well as the possible methodological applications. For example, the point system attached to the animal welfare stars will vary based on how impactful the sub-criteria are to the considered species.
The carbon footprint indicator on the other hand will cover the entire lifecycle of a product group; Migros explains online that rating all products individually is not possible, so they clustered the products into relevant groups to assess their footprint from their cultivation to production, transportation and packaging, including also considerations on water or pesticides used in the process. Interestingly enough, there should be a mention on the label whether the product has been transported by plane, as it has dramatic impact on the entire carbon footprint.
By considering the environmental impact of the products they purchase via an easy-to-understand M-Check sticker, consumers can make rational, informed choices and understand their own impact on the food supply chain. This is a great, ambitious move from the one of the biggest retailers of Switzerland to make its supply chain and offering transparent, and honestly declares its possible fails.
I would be curious to see how it works practically, and whether consumers will really have an impact on what Migros offers in its aisles in the future:
Will the brand consider changing/correcting its supply chain, or remove product groups with the lowest grades?
Will it eventually force the brand to remove ingredients such as palm oil from many biscuits, reduce unnecessary plastics in packaging, increase zero-waste opportunities, or even assess chemical content in hygienic products?
This however aligns with the commitments of Migros to propose a stronger sustainability-friendly offering. In November 2020 already, the retailer opened in first zero-waste stand in Baden with the opportunity to purchase up to 70 products under the Migros bio-quality standard.