One medium-sized business is appalled at the cost of licensing the Carbon Trust's Carbon Reduction Label. But the Carbon Trust claims it's not ripping-off businesses

Medium-sized business: "The carbon label is a rip-off. SMEs can't afford the licence fees. Is the carbon labelling scheme just an elite club for greenwashing multi-nationals...?"

I would ask the question, is this about making industry more sustainable or cashing in before an international standard comes out?

I have recently discussed using the carbon label with the Carbon Trust and was perturbed to find that there is a minimum charge of £5000 per year to use the carbon label after you have paid a consultant to work it out. As far as I can see, this is a payment for ‘rights to use’ and nothing else, i.e. the Carbon Trust do nothing to actually earn this money!

The pricetag will put off many SMEs thus putting back access to carbon-footprinting for a large sector of business; this should be rolled out at cost price or it just becomes a ‘big boys club’. Large retailers source their products wherever is cheapest regardless of the environmental impact and have particularly poor records for local sourcing but they will appear greener because they have a label.

I would be surprised if the international standard is based on PAS 2050 [BSI and the Carbon Trust's new product carbon footprinting standard], particularly with some of the inaccurate assumptions which are used in the calculation. The ISO do not appear to have made a great precedent in copying others standards but it’s not in the Carbon Trust’s interests to tell us that.

Written by a concerned SME (prefers to remain anonymous)

Carbon Trust: "We offer good value. The carbon label's licence fee is scaled to take into account the size of the company..."

Following on from the launch of the PAS 2050 standard for the carbon footprinting of goods and services, I wanted to challenge the assertions that using the standard is too costly for SMEs and that the PAS 2050 will not influence the development of an international standard.

We have already seen great interest from SMEs in participating in the scheme. Continental Clothing, Mey Selections, Innocent Drinks and Colors Fruit are just some of the early participants.

The communications licence fee that the Carbon Label Company charges for the use of the Carbon Reduction Label is scaled to take into account the size of company and use of the label, thus enabling SMEs to use it and not be penalised by the cost. With small companies like Continental Clothing already using the label, and many others showing an interest, we are proving the business case for low carbon products and the value of the Carbon Reduction Label for businesses of all sizes.

Regarding international developments, the Carbon Trust is currently participating in the World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development project to develop further guidance around product carbon footprinting. This will allow the WRI/WBCSD process to benefit from the experience we gained in developing PAS 2050.

The International Standards Organisation has recently agreed to develop a new international standard that will follow PAS 2050 in addressing product carbon footprinting. The Carbon Trust participates on the work group drafting this new standard as a UK expert, ensuring that the ISO process can benefit from the knowledge and experience that we have gained through the development of the PAS 2050 standard and working with companies carrying out carbon footprinting.

Our involvement in both these processes reflects the importance of establishing a common standard for carrying out product carbon footprinting activities and our desire to support these initiatives.

Written by Euan Murray, Carbon footprinting general manager at the Carbon Trust

- The Carbon Trust has declined to provide further detail on the Carbon Reduction Label licence fee price structure.

Join the debate: Email to tell us about your experience with the Carbon Trust's carbon reduction label

This story first appeared on, Ethical Corporation’s online sister publication on business and climate change.

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