Eco-score: bonus-malus (BM)

A food product’s Eco-score is calculated on the basis of the life cycle analysis of the product category and the additional bonus-malus system, which takes into account 5 extra criteria and assigns additional plus and minus points. This allows us to make a distinction between products within the same category when evaluating the ecological impact. Let’s look at the different indicators.  Bartel Van Riet is ready to give more explanations.

The 5 indicators of the bonus-malus

  1. Production method
  2. Origin
  3. Environmental policy
  4. Packaging
  5. Biodiversity

What is their impact? And how does this translate to points? Here are two practical examples.

The five indicators of the bonus-malus: production method, origin, environmental policy, packaging and biodiversity.

Production method

The bonus-malus assigns pluses or minuses on the basis of the production method of a food product.

Does the product have a sustainability label that points at a sustainable production method? This may result in 5 to 20 plus points.

EU Bio

A label for products that meet the standards of European organic legislation (15 plus points).

Rainforest Alliance

An international label for sustainable agriculture. Only applicable to food products, such as bananas, coffee, tea, chocolate and palm oil (10 plus points).


An international label for fair trade with the South (10 plus points).


Aquaculture Stewardship Council, an international label for sustainable farmed fish (10 plus points).


Marine Stewardship Council, an international label for sustainable fish (10 plus points).

Label Rouge

A French quality label for, among other things, animal products (10 plus points).

The selection of these labels was based on a recent ADEME study on the reliability of sustainability labels. The points of different labels are added up (up to maximum 20 points). ASC and MSC are an exception: those bonus points cannot be added up.


Transport does not only play a role in the life cycle analysis, the bonus-malus system also awards points (up to 15 plus points, no minus points) based on the origin of each ingredient.  The Eco-score takes into account the common distances the product has to travel and means of transport (road, rail and sea). Food products are rarely (0.1%, EuroStat 2016) transported by air, so air traffic is not included in the calculation.

The packaging of a product helps us to determine and evaluate the origin of ingredients. Useful information includes:

  • the origin stated in the list of ingredients
  • a protected geographical indication
  • a registered designation of origin
  • a specific product name guaranteeing origin (this is often the case for cheeses, e.g. Camembert invariably comes from France, Greek feta cheese or Italian Parmesan)

If the origin of an ingredient is not known, the least favourable score is given. Only the origin of the raw materials plays a role when we evaluate the ‘origin’ aspect, not the production location. Due to lack of data, this aspect is not yet included in the calculation of the Eco-Score. The idea is to get more information from suppliers in the future, so that this can also be included in the calculation.

Environmental policy

The environmental policy of the producing country also affects the Eco-Score. A product can get 5 minus or plus points.

The Environmental Performance Index is used to evaluate this factor. It was developed by universities Yale and Columbia using 32 indicators and reflects the attitude of 180 countries towards the environment. Currently, every product gets five minus points as far as environmental policy is concerned because we do not yet know the origin of all the ingredients.


The extent of circularity of the packaging of the end product is also considered.  The calculation of the Eco-score takes into account both the materials of which the packaging is made (e.g. recyclable raw materials) and the recyclability of the packaging.

The greater the environmental impact of the packaging, the more minus points it gets. Packaging from non-renewable or non-recyclable raw materials can result in up to 15 minus points.

Products without packaging will of course not receive any minus points. This methodology is being further refined for the Belgian market.


We also take into account the depletion of fish stocks and deforestation. The impact of the biodiversity and eco systems can cause up to 10 minus points.