Good Food for Cities

Superlist: nudging supermarkets to make sustainable food the norm

November 8, 2023

We examine the efforts of Belgian and European supermarkets to make the food system more sustainable. We share these research results with citizens, policy makers, civil society and the food sector. That is how we encourage supermarkets to take up their social responsibility. Superlist is a collaboration with the Dutch think tank Questionmark.

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Belgium, Europe.

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Nudging the biggest supermarket chains (combined market share of 80%) to make efforts towards sustainability.

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2022 – ongoing

'Superlist Environment Belgium 2022' was made possible thanks to the financial support of EU LIFE.


Consumer impact

All too often, our consumption patterns perpetuate unfair and unjust practices in food chains. A living wage, the right to organise, respect for human rights and the protection of women and children are still not a reality in many food chains.

The ecological footprint of what we eat also goes beyond national borders. Just think of deforestation for our animal feed, nitrogen emissions from livestock farming, the use of pesticides in agriculture, and land and water seizures due to food waste.

In short: consumers in Belgium and Europe have a global impact on people and the environment. It’s about time we turn this into something positive.

Supermarkets’ power

Supermarkets have the means to put this into practice. Through their policies, they can make trading practices fairer and more ecological, both within their own organisation and with their suppliers and producers. Through targeted purchasing policies, supermarkets can not only make their assortment more sustainable. They can also encourage their customers to make sustainable choices through promotions and the store environment.

Moreover, this could generate a huge impact. After all, more than 80% of what Belgian seat, comes from supermarkets. In fact, more than 80% of the Belgian retail market is in control of just five players. In the rest of Europe, too, a handful of supermarket chains occupy a key role in our food system.

With Superlist, we examine whether supermarkets are using their key role for fair and ecologically sustainable food, and we encourage action.

“By comparing supermarkets’ efforts and sharing them, we not only encourage them to do better, but we also show them how to do this, with recommendations from experts and good practices from the field.”

Sarah Braeye, project manager of Superlist | Rikolto

First Superlist in Belgium

In 2022, we conducted the first Belgian Superlist. This study examined how Belgian supermarkets are helping their customers to eat in a more climate and environmentally-friendly way. We looked at efforts for more plant-based and sustainable food, and action plans against deforestation and food waste.

View the results

Our approach


Superlist is a long-term research project in several European countries. It examines how supermarkets are using their policies, assortment, promotions and store environment to make sustainable food the norm. Each individual study covers one aspect of sustainability. A repeat survey is conducted after two years to measure progress.

Rikolto collaborates on the aspects of environmental sustainability and human rights. We bring together appropriate academic and social partners to adapt the research methodology to the Belgian context and to formulate recommendations on the research results. We co-follow up the implementation of the research and maintain contact with the supermarkets involved.

Creating support

Once the research is finished, Rikolto shares the results and recommendations with the general public through the press and a public campaign. We also reach policy makers through direct contacts and our civil society partners. Within the food sector, we draw attention to Superlist through external and in-house events.

In addition, we are working with citizens on the research results. In participatory workshops, we discuss the role of supermarkets in a sustainable food system, explore each other’s perspective and find out how citizens can contribute to solutions.

Stimulating action

After the research,we engage with supermarkets. We discuss and interpret the research results together and see how we can take steps forward, e.g. through experiments with academic partners, projects on sustainable supply chains, a learning network, etc. That way, Superlist ties in with other activities in which Rikolto acts as partner or matchmaker.

Scaling up Europe

Finally, Rikolto is looking for partners in other European countries to introduce Superlist there as well. By applying the same methodology in different countries, we can address supermarkets and policy makers at the European level and encourage them to take action.

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In 2022, Rikolto brought Superlist Environment to Belgium.

  • We formulated 10 key results and 13 core recommendations for the 5 biggest supermarket chains in Belgium.
  • We engaged 100 citizens in participatory workshops and gathered 100 professionals from profit, non-profit and policy making at the networking event ‘De SuperDialoog’.
  • We got 50 mentions in press and media, including 2 extensive reports in national newspapers.
  • We reached approximately 2 million Belgians through an online, social and print advertising campaign.
  • Currently, Rikolto is conducting 1-on-1 interviews with supermarkets and we also started alearning network with supermarkets.

What’s in the works?

  • In the fall of 2023, Superlist Human Rights will launch in Belgium.
  • In 2024, the repeat study of Superlist Environment Belgium will take place.
  • Rikolto is working on a European consortium to introduce the study inother countries.

The world is crying out for a more sustainable food production and consumption. Supermarkets have the opportunity and responsibility to play a major role in this.

Charlotte Linnebank, general director | Questionmark Foundation

Who do we work with?

Test Aankoop


Sarah Braeye

Superlist project manager | Rikolto

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