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Labelling the point

22 July, 2021

Unilever has announced that it will be adding carbon labels to a select range of products by the end of this year, expanding to its full range by the end of 2022 pending positive results. Although the news was welcomed by many, not everyone could see its benefits.  

And we get it. In a recent exercise at GB to understand all the certification schemes out there, we came up with 79 alone. On-pack labelling and data can be quickly confusing and, when it comes to food, there are not only huge variations between products (for example, oat milk versus cows’ milk), but the way the food is grown and produced also has a huge impact on its GHG emissions. But there’s also so much potential – and the key is to make it meaningful for consumers. 

What if Unilever’s move prompted all major producers to add carbon labels to their products too, so that a consumer could pick up two bars of milk chocolate and make an informed decision about which one to purchase based on its environmental impact? What if all major supermarkets started promoting low-carbon products, using the significant powers at their disposal to make them appear attractive and catch people’s eyes? What if the UK developed a traffic-light system to show whether a product fits within a low-carbon lifestyle, in line with IPCC recommendations? What if all of this newly available information linked into other products that encourage and reward low-carbon lifestyles, such carbon-calculating credit card providers like Doconomy that we’ve written about before

We applaud this move by Unilever, who are willing to try a new concept and see where it goes. This is just the start of the journey, and if the UK is to meet – or better yet, exceed – its carbon targets, we need more bold moves and trials that put pressure on industrial practices and utilise behavioural nudges. 

By Jennie Mitchell

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