Brands are starting to put carbon labels on their product packaging. This extends beyond food and encompasses a wide variety of products.
Consumers are demanding transparency and sustainability in all the products they use, not just food. They want to know what impact their activities have on the environment and how much of a carbon footprint they are generating as a consequence of their actions and purchases. There is also mounting pressure on businesses and countries to decarbonise.
According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Peoples’ Climate Vote, a survey of perceptions of 1.2 million respondents spanning 50 countries, two thirds of the world believes that we are in the midst of a climate crisis. 76% of South Africans believe we have a “climate emergency”.
Similar to a nutrition label, US beauty brand Cocokind has sustainability facts on one side of its packaging. It also spells out the carbon footprint per single use. “We were calling ourselves ‘clean’ and ‘sustainable’. We realised we can’t just use these words anymore, and we needed to be able to figure out, how do we measure this internally? And how do we communicate that, and make sure that the burden of education is on the brand and not the consumer?” says founder Priscilla Tsai.
Vestre, a Norwegian furniture company, is the first in the world to carbon label all its products. It lists the manufacturing carbon emissions alongside the price so that environmentally-minded consumers can make informed purchase decisions. The data is verified and rated via the International EPD System.
As part of its six pronged plan to reduce emissions to zero by 2039, Unilever has committed to introducing carbon labelling to each of its 70,000 products. The packaging will indicate how much greenhouse gas was emitted in the production and transport of that product. The British multinational consumer goods company emits about 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually,
In 2019, the US fashion brand Allbirds achieved carbon neutrality. Allbirds co-CEO Joey Zwillinger said: “At Allbirds, we believe that climate change is the most important challenge of our time. Given that human-made greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly warming our planet, we’ve prioritised carbon dioxide reduction as the most important metric for our business.” In April 2020 it became the first fashion brand to label its carbon footprint. It’s developed a tool to measure the carbon intensity of every decision the company makes in the life cycle of each product.
“There has been huge growth in the number of companies wanting to put labels on their products that demonstrate their environmental impacts, and in particular carbon,” says Myles McCarthy, director at emissions consultancy Carbon Trust. But while there is widespread belief that we are in the midst of a climate crisis, this does not necessarily translate into action by individuals. This so-called intention-action gap creates an opportunity for businesses to provide simple and effective methods for consumers to make a positive impact through their shopping. There is scope for businesses to act upon this and provide solutions to help individuals track and trace their carbon footprint.
By Faeeza Khan
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Image credit: Beelong