Carbon Labelling | Is it the next step towards a sustainable future?

Katie Paterson

December 8, 2020

Carbon labels tell customers the total greenhouse gas emissions a product has produced from extraction of raw-materials, through usage, to disposal. It is usually measured through the C02e/kg per 100kg of a product.

Labelling products with the emissions produced in its lifetime encourages consumers to buy products that are better for the environment. However, this only works if all products have carbon labels so that a comparison can be made.

Types of carbon labels

The Carbon Trust have developed an easy to understand format for their carbon labels. Their carbon footprint symbol is well recognised and used on Quorn products.

The Carbon Trust’s carbon footprint labels quickly show customers the status of the products carbon emissions. They are labelled as measured C02, reducing C02, carbon neutral and lower C02. For more info on The Carbon Trust’s Carbon Footprints click here.

The label tells customers that the brand is investing in reducing their carbon emissions. However, some carbon labelling companies such as Carboncloud, working with Oatly, give brands an exact carbon emissions number for each product.

Calculating carbon expenditure per product

In order to measure the carbon footprint of a singular product, many calculations are needed. As it currently stands, the majority of the UK don’t have context around the numbers on a carbon label, educational advertisement campaigns would be needed for the labels to have impact.

All brands will have to use the same measurements and calculations to provide alignment. Nestle believe that “an EU-wide harmonised approach” is the only way for carbon labels to have any meaning to people (Financial Times).

Companies already using carbon labels

Quorn and Oatly are already labelling their products with carbon labels, Unilever say that they are planning to do so on every product across all brands and Nestle are considering it.

However, as no meat brands are doing so just yet, it is difficult for consumers to compare products, especially meat vs meat free options, to see the difference that they could be making.

Vegan and vegetarian companies are much more eager to begin carbon labelling as their products are some of the best on the market for sustainability. However, persuading companies with a high carbon expenditure to begin carbon labelling will be a challenge.

Non-food brands are also interested in carbon labelling, for example L’Oreal wants to score their products from A to E in terms of impact on the environment. However, this will confuse customers if they are used to seeing numerical data on the carbon labels, hence the need for a standardised labelling across all sectors. Labels need to be comparable between different product brands (ICIS).

Consumer expectations

Carbon UK Report undertaken by YouGov on perceptions of carbon labelling asked people the same questions on their opinions of brands and carbon in 2016, 2019 and 2020. It was found that perceptions have tilted since 2016. When asked:

“Before purchasing a product, it’s important for me to know that the company I’m purchasing it from is taking action to reduce the product’s carbon footprint.”

More and more consumers answered that this was important. There was an 11% increase from 2016 to 2020 (24% to 35%). This demonstrates an a higher demand for sustainable products in the UK.

The research shows continued levels of support for carbon labelling on products across all countries, with two-thirds of consumers saying they thought it was a good idea. The brands benefit of sharing information on the carbon footprint of products was also consistent with previous results. Two-thirds of consumers of all markets surveyed said they are more likely to think positively about a brand that could demonstrate it had lowered the carbon footprint of its products (Carbon UK).

Will it be an effective step to take?

YouGov’s survey shows that the public are becoming more climate conscious. However, will carbon labelling really be an effective way to persuade customers to switch from their favourite products to those with less damage to the environment?

Household appliance energy labels rate the energy efficiency of products like lightbulbs on an A-G rating. This lets customers know how efficient the lightbulbs they are buying work. The EU estimates that by 2030, 38TWh/year of electricity will be saved due to these labels.

This tells us that giving consumers this information, and when given the option to buy a sustainable alternative, they will.

Since the introduction of nutritional labels, claims, symbols and logos, consumers intake of calories has reduced by 6.6%, total fat by 10.6%, whilst consumer’s vegetable consumption increased by 13.5%.

The success of nutrition labels and energy efficient labels brings hopes that carbon labels can impact the consumption of foods with a big carbon footprint. (Study: What kind of impact does food labeling have on consumption? (foodnavigator-usa.com)

Our label approval services

We offer label approval services to ensure food labels are compliant and correct. We also offer food labelling compliance training sessions where our experts will take you through General and Specific mandatory FIC labelling requirements.

Food Labelling training is vital to keep staff up to date on new regulations. We want to demonstrate the highest standard of care and safety for your customers through effective food hygiene training.

Our Smart Supplier product information management (PIM) system is a trusted source of data which ensures that your essential business processes run smoothly providing the right information, to the right people, at the right time.

Through Smart Supplier, you will have access to KPI charts to visualise and understand your data. For example, you can dashboard policies such as the provenance of your palm oil, free range eggs and sustainable soya so you can be confident that you have achieved your CSR commitments for sustainable palm.

This information allows you to make confident marketing claims regarding the sustainability of your products and suppliers. Calculating the carbon footprint for each product can be costly and time consuming, the data we can provide allows you to begin your sustainability journey now.

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To chat to us call on 01933 272089 or email info@ntassure.com

References

Could carbon labelling soon become routine? (ampproject.org)

How Britain's chicken addiction is driving deforestation in Brazil | ITV News

Product carbon footprint label |Carbon Trust

Product-carbon-footprint-labelling-report-v3.pdf(storage.googleapis.com)

Carbon Labels Are Finally Coming To The Food And Beverage Industry (forbes.com)

New research shows sustainability is a growing business priority as a result of Covid-19 | Carbon Trust

Soya linked to fires and deforestation in Brazil feeds chicken sold on the British high street - Unearthed(greenpeace.org)

CarbonCloud

INSIGHT: Carbon footprint labelling –a growing trend among consumer goods companies | ICIS

Can carbon labels on food help savethe planet? It's complicated | WIRED UK