Could carbon labelling soon become routine?
When the UK’s largest supermarket, Tesco, began labelling the carbon footprints of its products in 2011, it soon had second thoughts. Finding the scheme labour-intensive and confusing for customers, it decided not to proceed any further.
But less than a decade later, carbon-labelled products are making their way into its stores by a different route.
Quorn, the meat substitute, this year began including carbon footprint labels on its most popular products; Oatly, a popular brand of oat milk, began using the labels in 2019. Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, said this year that it aims eventually to include them on everything it makes, while Nestlé is considering carbon labelling.
“There has been huge growth in the number of companies wanting to put labels on to their products that demonstrate their environmental impacts, and in particular carbon,” says Myles McCarthy, director at emissions consultancy Carbon Trust. Having worked with Tesco on its earlier scheme, the consultancy is now working with Quorn, a 35-year-old meat substitutes maker now owned by the Filipino group Monde Nissin.
“It’s driven by an increase in consumer appetite. . . and also by the growing pressure on organisations and countries to decarbonise and meet much more ambitious targets,” he says. ”Companies are feeling pressure to move forward in this space from a range of groups, including investors, customers and competitors.”