Product Sustainability Ratings

HowGood's Product Sustainability Ratings communicate the overall environmental and social sustainability of a product.

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

HowGood’s Product Sustainability Ratings communicate the overall environmental and social sustainability of a product. They provide consumers with a single rating that reflects a holistic assessment of product sustainability, making it easier to compare and shop for the most sustainable products.

88% of shoppers would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical. Ratings empower shoppers to quickly identify high-performing products and make higher impact purchases.

How does HowGood measure sustainability?

HowGood assesses the environmental and social impact of products across 8 core sustainability metrics.

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: What is the carbon footprint (cradle-to-farm gate) of the ingredients in this product?

  • Processing: How much energy is used to process the ingredients in this product?

  • Blue Water Usage: How much water does it take to grow the ingredients in this product?

  • Land Occupation: How much land is required to produce the ingredients in this product?

  • Soil Health: How does the growing of the ingredients in this product impact the soil?

  • Labor Risk: What is the overall labor risk involved in the ingredients in this product, considering both the severity of the working conditions and the number of people affected?

  • Animal Welfare: If relevant, how are the animals involved in the production of an ingredient treated?

  • Biodiversity: Does the growing of the ingredients in this product help or harm biodiversity?

These 8 metrics are evaluated on a spectrum from negative to positive impact. For some metrics, this illustrates impact from degenerative to regenerative. Products receive a score of 1-10 for each metric.

HowGood Impact Score

A product’s individual metric scores are consolidated to produce an overall product impact score. Each of the 8 sustainability metrics are weighted equally to yield a HowGood Impact Score, which is a percentage out of 100. The HowGood Impact score gives a comprehensive view of the impact of a product.

See the example below for an illustration of how a product with multiple ingredients would be assessed.

How does HowGood rate products?

HowGood rates products on their environmental and social impact, also taking into account whether we would recommend the product. Our rating methodology is rooted in our understanding of the food system and experience rating food products on environmental and social performance for over 15 years.

Product ratings are based on the HowGood Impact Score (a measure of a product’s impact across 8 core sustainability metrics), and the following factors.

  • Processing: Considers whether a product contains ingredients that are heavily processed

  • Labor conditions: Considers labor issues associated with sourcing locations and whether a product has a fair trade certification

  • # of ingredients: Considers the number of ingredients in a product

  • Organic: Considers whether a product has an organic certification

A product’s HowGood Impact score is adjusted (positively or negatively) according to how it meets each of these product considerations.

HowGood impact score adjustment

Adjustment factor




The product contains ingredients that are heavily processed


Labor Conditions

The product has ingredients sourced from locations with known labor issues and does not have a fair trade certification


# of Ingredients

The product has more than 12 ingredients


# of Ingredients

The product has 3 or fewer ingredients



The product has an organic certification


Why do ratings take into account these additional factors?

While the HowGood Impact score is an assessment of a product’s overall sustainability, there are some considerations which it cannot address. The HowGood impact score is a quantitative reflection of a product’s on-farm practices and processing, which is largely conclusive. However, when translating impact into ratings, we also incorporate a qualitative assessment. Because ratings are meant to inform consumers, a more encompassing assessment is vital to effectively guiding sustainable purchasing decisions.

Processing is a good example of a factor that is not considered in its entirety within the HowGood Impact score. The processing metric that is considered within the HowGood impact score takes into account the amount of energy required to produce a product. It does not take into account the complexity of its ingredients and whether they rely on commercial or industrial processing. A product may earn a high HowGood Impact Score (equivalent to a Best rating), yet receive a Good rating or no rating because it contains ingredients that require very high levels of processing.

Similarly, the metrics that contribute to the total HowGood Impact score take into account standards and certifications that products and/or ingredients have received. However, we know that organic and fair trade certifications in particular are substantial when evaluating overall social and environmental sustainability. Fair trade is an important indicator of the social conditions associated with growing the ingredients in a product. Likewise, organic is a significant indicator of environmental sustainability, especially in terms of its benefit of reducing pesticides and chemicals relative to conventional farming practices. As such, additional qualitative adjustments have been factored in for products that may or may not have these certifications.

What has been the process for testing the efficacy of the rating system?

HowGood applies more than 17 years of experience rating food products to conduct a number of litmus tests to evaluate where various types of products fall within the rating system and assess the validity of these ratings. The rating system has been checked against entire lists of food products. It has also been used to evaluate products by companies that have sustainable sourcing and the resulting ratings validated.

General guidance & implications of product ratings

  • Fresh produce will achieve a "Best" or "Great" rating in most instances.

  • Most meat products will receive a "Standards Not Met" (SNM) rating due to the negative environmental impacts of raising conventional meat and poultry products. However, organic meat may achieve a "Good" rating (higher ratings are less likely).

  • Most seafood will achieve a "Good" or higher rating because they tend to have less severe environmental impact than meat products.

  • Eggs will typically achieve a "Good" rating because they are minimally processed and often locally or regionally sourced.

  • Milk and other dairy products will typically achieve a "Good" or better rating only when standards like the organic certification are applied.

Exclusions of the rating system

  • Vitamins and supplements

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Seasonal food products

How are Sustainability Ratings applied to products?

Products qualify for Product Sustainability Ratings if their adjusted HowGood impact score is better than the large majority of food products in the industry (i.e. the food products assessed and rated by HowGood). The HowGood Rating System labels top-performing food products as “Best”, “Great”, and “Good”. By translating overall product impact into easy-to-digest ratings, consumers can quickly evaluate and make higher impact shopping decisions. Impact thresholds for the Ratings are determined based on HowGood’s assessment of over 1 million products in the food system

The quantitative thresholds for the HowGood Rating System are below.

How does it work?

On the My Formulas page, you can select to add “Product Ratings” as a column to your dashboard. You can also sort any list of formulas by Product Ratings to see which of your formulas achieve a rating:

If your formula has achieved a rating, you will see that the rating of “Good”, “Great” or “Best” is activated on the Product Impact page. If it is not activated, you can try making changes in Innovation mode to see how you can achieve a rating for your product.

How can I improve impact as a product developer?

You can improve your product’s sustainability impact by looking for hotspots in your ingredients and working to improve impact across the eight core metrics that contribute to the HowGood Impact Score.

To achieve a Product Sustainability Rating, you can also:

  • Look for ingredients that have less processing

  • Consider the labor risks associated with the ingredients in your product and whether investing in a Fair Trade certification would improve your labor risk

  • Develop formulations with less ingredients

  • Consider sourcing organic ingredients and investing in an organic certification

Product Sustainability Ratings are available by contract - contact your Customer Success Manager to find out more.

Download HowGood's Product Sustainability Ratings Methodology in PDF:

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