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Could companies soon add carbon footprint labels to products?

Carbon Emissions
Posted at 7:00 AM, Apr 07, 2021

More companies are adding carbon footprint labels to their products in an attempt to inform consumers about how much carbon and water go into making a product.

It’s a move intended not only to hold companies accountable for their environmental impact but also to get consumers thinking.

“Being able to put a carbon footprint label [on a product] allows a consumer to have that sense of mind, what should I be thinking about when I am buying? What should I be thinking about when I’m recycling? And what should I be thinking about as I’m using the product?” said Ateli Iyalla, the managing director of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in North America.

CDP compares carbon labels to nutrition labels. At the grocery store, nutrition labels inform customers about how many calories and nutrients will go into their bodies. A carbon label tells consumers the emissions that are going into the Earth.

Unilever is one of the largest companies to announce plans to add carbon labels to their products. The company makes a total of 70,000 products, including soap, care products and food and beverages.

Iyalla says a company as big as Unilever could create a major ripple effect for more companies to add carbon labels.

“Just even the presence of a carbon footprint label on Unilever products and the absence of it on their competitors’ products will start to have consumers question why can’t they see this information for the other comparative products they’re looking to be able to buy,” Iyalla said.

Unilever started working on carbon labels last June. In a statement, the company said it takes time to work with suppliers to ensure the correct information is included on the labels. Right now, Unilever’s biggest gap is where their suppliers source raw ingredients — about 150 large-purchasing companies are part of their supply chain program.

Iyalla says that’s something CDP is helping companies with.