The Carbon Trust’s Euan Murray says that carbon labelling is proving a success

I read with interest your article regarding the Carbon Trust’s pilot carbon labelling scheme [“Carbon labelling: A green mark too far?”, January 2008].

Our aim in developing the carbon reduction label has always been two-fold. The first is to encourage businesses to measure, and then reduce, the carbon footprint of their products. All our partners who adopt the Carbon Trust label commit to a “reduce or lose” policy whereby, if they fail to reduce the carbon footprint of the product over a two-year period, they will have the label withdrawn.

Our second aim is to provide a bridge between carbon-conscious companies and their consumers, empowering shoppers to factor carbon impacts into their purchasing decisions and to drive companies to deliver lower carbon products.

Nearly a year into the pilot, we have already seen real results. For example, by scrutinising their supply chains, Boots and Walkers have both found ways in which to reduce their carbon footprint as well as making cost savings, and Continental Clothing has announced an 89 per cent reduction in their carbon dioxide emissions since they started measuring their impact. These are real and tangible results that can make a difference both to businesses’ bottom lines and their impacts on the environment.

Since the launch of our work in this area, UK businesses have shown a real appetite to be involved. The Carbon Trust is now trialling the PAS 2050 with approximately 75 product ranges from 20 different companies. In addition, 150 companies have expressed an interest in taking part in the pilot.

The aim of our work with DEFRA and BSI British Standards is to develop an agreed method for measuring the life-cycle emissions of a wide range of different goods and services. Following the standard BSI consultation process will ensure that the standard’s development will be subject to rigorous scrutiny and widespread stakeholder input. We were therefore surprised by Marshalls’ comments questioning our ability to deliver on this.

However, interest in labelling has not been limited to the business community. In research undertaken by Ipsos Mori in 2007, more than 75 per cent of consumers agreed that if they had more information about a company’s social, environmental and ethical behaviour, this would influence their purchasing decisions. In a separate survey, 67 per cent of consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product with a low carbon footprint.

Nonetheless, while consumers are beginning to demand such information, we acknowledge that we are only at the start of this exciting journey. By offering clear information to consumers, they can begin to factor carbon impacts into their purchasing decisions. However, the time when there are enough labelled products on the market to allow shoppers to compare like for like is still some way off.

Carbon labelling will only ever be one element of encouraging behaviour change but, as we understand more and more about the implications of climate change, we all take on more personal responsibility to tackle it. I think you are underestimating consumers to suggest that they won’t rise to the challenge of beginning to consider the impact of their own purchasing decision and that businesses will only be using the label as a form of greenwash.

Euan Murray
Carbon Footprinting General Manager
Carbon Trust

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