Tesco offers carbon footprint labels on pack on over 500 own-label lines. (Photo:GNU GFDL/Stock File)
Tesco commits to carbon foot print labelling
Thursday, July 22, 2010, 17:30 (GMT + 9)
Measured and certified carbon footprint labels now appear on more than 5,700 products. But Tesco is still the only major supermarket that has committed to rolling out such labels on pack on over 500 own-label lines.
“We hope that our new labels will allow you to easily understand the footprint of individual products and help you to reduce your own carbon footprint,” Tesco said.
“The labels are designed to show how many grams of carbon or equivalent greenhouse gases were emitted as a result of growing, manufacturing, transporting and storing a product. […] For some products they also tell you how the carbon footprint compares with other similar products, so you can tell which has the smallest carbon footprint,” the chain told its customers.
Meanwhile, neither Asda, Sainsbury's, The Co-op Group nor M&S plan to take the same path. They are concerned about overcrowding product labels, inconsistent methodology for calculating footprints and confusing their shoppers.
Asda corporate social responsibility director Paul Kelly said it was the buyers’ job to discriminate products based on environmental credentials, reports Food Manufacture.
"Like other retailers, we are committed to carbon footprinting and have carried out research relating to the issue,” The Co-operative Group said. “However, we would prefer to act on the findings to reduce the carbon emissions associated with our products, not simply label them."
Regardless, Carbon Trust carbon footprinting general manager Euan Murray said he is confident other food retailers will follow Tesco's lead. He rejected the notion that shoppers’ inability to meaningfully compare products (because so few were currently labelled) meant that carbon footprint labels did not serve a useful purpose.
“The carbon footprint label is a sign to shoppers that the manufacturer of that product cares about its environmental footprint and is actively trying to reduce it. Over time, as things evolve and we reach critical mass, shoppers will be able to use the labels to compare similar products," Murray stated.
In the meantime, Tesco was increasingly using the labels to engage with shoppers and explain what role they could play in reducing the carbon footprint of the products in question by cooking or storing foods in a particular manner, he said.
“Take potatoes. If you cook them with the lid on, you can reduce carbon and save on your utility bills. The label is not an end in itself, it can help people to see that they can do their bit too,” he said.
But he acknowledged that, to gain critical mass, food and drink retailers and manufacturers would have to work together more effectively to circumvent costly duplication on lifecycle analysis work. This was especially relevant with packaging, as multiple companies use the same materials, he said.
“The prize in time could be a single open-source repository for this data, shared across our industry," said Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy.
Simultaneously, European consumer organisation ANEC believes carbon footprint labelling could increase negative environmental impacts and mislead consumers by distracting attention from other environmental concerns.
By Natalia Real