“The value of the label comes not from providing perfect information, but better information than the consumer has at present,” wrote Michael Vandenbergh, Paul Stern and Thomas Dietz in their paper on carbon footprints for Nature Climate Change in 2011.
Ten years on and there is still very little information available on the climate impact of the foods bought in shops, consumed in restaurants or delivered to homes.
A poll published by Quorn this month showed that 86% of Brits would like to do more to help the planet in their day-to-day lives, but just 36% are currently aware that reducing their meat consumption could help.
Could a carbon footprint help?
Unilever wants to “communicate the carbon footprint of every product we sell”. At a recent Footprint Responsible Business Recovery Forum, caterers talked about carbon data on menus as a “real ally for meaningful change”.
And this month Leon published the footprints of its “better burgers and fries”. Generally the plant-based options beat the fish or chicken ones – the beetroot soya LoVe burger and sweet Carolina burger weighing in at 0.49kgCO2e and 0.43kgCO2e respectively, compared to the crispy chicken’s 0.613kgCO2e.
Fries have a footprint of 0.11kgCO2e; but load them with cheese and this almost trebles (0.305kgCO2e). It’s also interesting to note that the double LoVe burger has the highest footprint (0.724kgCO2e).
Leon has been fairly transparent about its process – and its limitations. The footprints seem to capture the whole lifecycle too, from production of the ingredients to the packaging waste.
Will the details sway consumers to shift from meat or fish to vegan? There is little context either with how these compare to competitors. The footprints of Leon’s vegan burgers, kilo for kilo, appear lower than those made by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Again, would a lower footprint attract new customers?
None of this we yet know. But more information like this is surely a good thing.