Strong support for carbon labelling

Could carbon labels make a come back? In a survey of 9,037 adults in seven countries (Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, the US, Sweden, the UK and Spain), 67% supported a “recognisable carbon label”.

Conducted by YouGov, on behalf of the Carbon Trust, the poll also showed the potential brand benefits of tracking and displaying carbon emissions: 66% of consumers said they would feel “more positive” about companies that can demonstrate they are making efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of their products.

Demand for carbon labelling appears to be highest in Southern Europe: 85% of Italians and 80% of Spaniards said it’s a good idea. Support was lowest in Sweden (49%).

Food brands dabbled with the idea of carbon footprinting about a decade ago, with the likes of PepsiCo and Tesco committing to the concept. However, the labels never quite stuck – they not only proved extremely expensive, but with only a few brands using them it wasn’t possible for shoppers to compare products.

However, the concept is beginning to gain traction again. Last year, Denmark announced plans to label food products with their climate impact. Some meat-free brands are also planning to use their low carbon footprints to attract climate-conscious consumers.

By the end of 2019, Quorn Foods will have assessed the carbon impact of around 50% of its products. “We believe this is essential for ensuring credibility amongst key stakeholders; particularly as food choices are increasingly acknowledged as being fundamental to a 1.5 degree future,” said the manufacturer’s sustainability manager Louise Needham.

The Carbon Trust survey also highlighted a “value-action gap” – 52% of respondents said they don’t generally think about the carbon footprint of a product before buying it. However, 21% said they did.

Hugh Jones, managing director for business services at the Carbon Trust said consumers cannot make better choices without reliable information. “This research shows there is strong appetite to understand the climate impact of products,” he added.

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