What’s in a label? Quite a lot actually. In fact, many brands are adopting carbon labelling – a consumer-facing label that states the mass of carbon dioxide released over the lifecycle of a product or service.
Consumers seem to like the idea, according to a recent survey by the Carbon Trust. In addition, growing numbers of companies are tracking their carbon impact in anticipation of global action to curb emissions.
Here, BMI’s Liz Gyekye looks at a few companies that are making waves in this field.
In April, US sustainable footwear brand Allbirds (@allbirds) became what it described as one of the first fashion companies to introduce carbon labelling for its products. Allbirds makes trainers made from wool, helping it to boast a carbon footprint 60% lower than a typical synthetic shoe.
A standard footwear has a carbon footprint of 12.5 kg CO2e. And the average carbon footprint of all of its products is 7.6 kg CO2e.
According to Allbirds, in “everyday life” 7.6 kg CO2e means about the same amount of emissions emitted by…
・Driving 19 miles in a car
・Running 5 loads of laundry in the dryer
・Making 22 chocolate bars
Allbirds wants carbon counting to become as simple as calorie counting. Co-founder Joey Zwillinger said: “We need something so simple that everyone could look at it, just like the calories on a food label.”
UK-based food brand Quorn (@QuornFoods) also announced plans to introduce “farm to shop” carbon labels for 30 of its bestselling products, including its mince, crispy nuggets and sausages in April. Peter Harrison, CCO of Quorn Foods, said: “For over 30 years, we have been proudly delivering Healthy Protein for a Healthy Planet. Quorn is proven to provide significant health and environmental benefits and today we’re delighted we can offer carbon footprint data to our customers, whom we know are actively trying to find ways to reduce their impact on the planet. This is about giving people the information needed to make informed decisions about the food they eat and the effect it has on our planet’s climate – in the same way that nutrition information is clearly labelled to help inform decisions on health – and we’re asking other brands to get on board with us.
“Currently no RDAs exist for carbon emissions, but we hope that if other food brands follow suit, we will be able to make better comparisons in our shopping baskets.”
Consumer goods giant Unilever (@unilever) recently announced that it was bringing transparency to its carbon labels. In a statement, Unilever said: “We believe that transparency about carbon footprint will be an accelerator in the global race to zero emissions, and it is our ambition to communicate the carbon footprint of every product we sell. To do this, we will set up a system for our suppliers to declare, on each invoice, the carbon footprint of the goods and services provided; and we will create partnerships with other businesses and organisations to standardise data collection, sharing and communication.”
Since its founding in Sweden in the 1990s, vegan food brand Oatly (@oatly) has always been at the forefront of the rapidly growing plant-based movement. As part of the company’s overarching mission to reduce the C02e footprint of the food industry by shifting consumers’ consumption choices, the company last year added a carbon footprint label to their products in Europe. By making that data available, Oatly enabled consumers to consider the carbon footprint of their food choices before they buy, just as they do with nutritional content. The label was accompanied by a challenge to the larger industry titled “Hey, food industry: show us your numbers!”
US-based salad chain Just Salad (@justsalad) is also introducing carbon labels for its products. A long-time innovator in sustainability, the company has announced that carbon footprint labels will be added to all of their menu items in September. The labels will show the total estimated greenhouse gas emissions for each menu item based on its ingredients, calculated using carbon emission data for hundreds of foods. “Our food choices will have a profound effect on the fate of our planet. By carbon labelling our menu, we’re embracing climate-smart eating, helping our guests eat for planetary and human health,” said Sandra Noonan, Chief Sustainability Officer of Just Salad.
“A calorie label simply isn’t enough anymore—we need to know how our food choices affect our well-being at a planetary level,” she added. “Our new carbon labels will provide that insight, helping guests make more holistic choices that take climate change into account.”