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Carbon calories

1 May, 2020

Our carbon footprints may have shrunk dramatically over the last six weeks. And when we emerge from lockdown at some point, it may become increasingly easy to keep them lower. 

recent survey by The Carbon Trust indicated that two thirds of consumers in the UK, Europe and the US support the introduction of carbon labelling – the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of a product put onto its packaging – on products. Visit your online food or fashion shop of choice today and you will see a number of forerunners who have taken the leap into transparency and aired their climate laundry for the world to see, from Oatly cartons (0.38 kg CO2e per litre) to Allbird trainers (5.4 kg CO2e per pair). 

We’ve been discussing carbon footprint labelling with some of our more forward-thinking clients for more than a decade, but the focus on the need to move towards net zero has generated a resurgence in interest in the practice.  

While the absolute number may mean little, the value comes in being able to compare similar products on the basis of their carbon credentials. So what will be essential is to make the number meaningful to consumers. That will happen when we can put it into context. Perhaps eventually we’ll see carbon traffic lighting, much as we now have for nutritional labelling, made compulsory to allow  such as introducing a red, amber, green colour-coding system to help consumers make sense of the information – as we have done for nutritional information in the UK. 

The Carbon Trust survey suggests that consumers would welcome this transparency, and the ability to make informed low impact purchasing decisions. Now it’s for government and businesses to work together to make this the new reality for all. 

By Gemma Coate

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