Soil Health

How does the growing of this ingredient impact the soil where it’s grown?

Jemima Snow avatar
Written by Jemima Snow
Updated over a week ago

Note: This metric was replaced with the updated Soil Health metric for all customers on 27 July, 2023.

What is Soil Health?

Soil Health is a measure of the regional risk of soil biodiversity and loss of organic soil content due to the agricultural practices associated with producing a given ingredient.

Soil is an essential building block in all agricultural ecosystems, as the home to incredible macro and micro biodiversity. Healthy soil will grow nutrient-dense plants, protect against erosion, and capture carbon from the atmosphere. Soil Health provides insight into whether a given ingredient is harming or regenerating the soil where it's grown.


How does Soil Health relate to agriculture, product development, and the food system?

Soil is an essential building block in all agricultural ecosystems, as the home to incredible macro and micro biodiversity. Healthy soil will grow nutrient-dense plants, protect against erosion, and capture carbon from the atmosphere.

As a result of overproduction, soil degrades and biodiversity decreases, and the root systems which hold soil in place disappear which can lead to erosion, water scarcity, and desertification.

Healthy soil is dependent on the variety of organisms it contains — a network of microorganisms, root systems, and decomposing matter. Plants and their root systems are also one of the most effective natural carbon sinks, a critical tool in fighting climate change.

Many of the most popular crops in the global food system are dependent on pollinators like bees, insects, and birds which are some of the first casualties of biodiversity loss.


What are the biggest contributors to high Soil Health impact?

  1. Monocropping, the practice of planting the same crop season after season, degrades the soil significantly and therefore requires higher and higher amounts of fertilizer to continue to produce.

  2. Tilling—the practice of overturning soil in order to plant seeds and distribute fertilizer—destroys the network of organic matter in the soil, exposing it to heat and wind causing it to dry out.

  3. Overgrazing of cattle on the same pasture without giving the land a break leads to compacted, parched, soil that is baked out in the sun without any natural protection from grasses and other vegetation.


How do we measure Soil Health impact?

Soil Biodiversity is calculated using the European Commission’s Global Soil Atlas (ECGSA), showing the regional risk of soil biodiversity and organic soil content loss due to agricultural practices and climate change.

Our data comes directly from Bioversity International, measured across six different indicators of soil health. Data is collected via soil samples, satellite imagery, and on-site macro and microflora and fauna assessments. Each method is applied to widespread locations, soil types, and agricultural methods, and measurements for microflora and fauna, erosion, and organic material are taken.

Soil Health Threshold Definitions

Ingredients Along the Soil Biodiversity Impact Spectrum:


Key Data Sources


How does my ingredient portfolio compare to others in the industry when it comes to Soil Health?

To see how your Soil Health stacks up against the industry average, you can benchmark your portfolio score and metric averages here.


What is the relationship to the HowGood Impact Score?

Soil Health is one of the eight core metrics that make up the HowGood Impact Score. To learn more about the HowGood Impact Score and how Soil Health influences it, click here.


How do I improve impact as a product developer?

  1. Implement certifications, standards, and/or practices such as Organic, Regenerative Organic, or Land to Market which employ no/low-till practices, reduce or eliminate chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, and encourage cover cropping, crop rotation, and rotational grazing.

  2. Change the source location of the ingredient, since certain countries and regions will be less likely than others to have widespread monocropping and use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides on an industrial scale.

  3. If standards and location changes aren't an option, you may need to choose an alternative ingredient.


Further Resources

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