Carbon footprint labelling
Money Programme this evening is looking at the claims the big retailers are making about going green. One pledge they looked at was Tesco's pledge to put a carbon footprint label on every product.
Boots had done two products, and it cost them £250,000, and the programme was fairly nonconstructive and dismissive.
Two routes I can see through this. First, a lot of that investment will be reusable; knowledge, tools, techniques to do subsequent calculations.
Second, a retailer with the muscle of Tesco can take a different approach. Bar codes apparently took off Wall-mart Wallmart demanded all its suppliers use them.
Tesco can just mandate that its suppliers carbon label their stuff. It'll be a long supply chain, but ultimately if every business carbon labels its output, you know, by the end, that the number is accurate, because each business involved can easily check that it has accounted for all the carbon; on the labels that went out of the door.
So why do I think this is useful?
- The process of doing the counting is going to highlight waste. The businesses have a profit motive to tackle that waste, reducing carbon.
- The carbon accounting is introduced through business wanting to do it. The alternative, government mandating it, would just result in years gnashing knashing of teeth and watering down.
- It'll actually deal with the myths. No point driving tomatoes 10 miles up the road when they put more energy into heating the greenhouse than the airline would have used from the Canary Islands.
- They made a fuss about food miles; apples from New Zealand etc. There is a significant challenge .. planes use a lot of energy getting stuff up in the air, and back down again. Flying stuff from half way around the world may make more sense then flying it from round the corner in Europe.
There's still a lot of skepticism. 'Spring was early this year, it'll probably be late next year.'
Yeah .. thats like 'Sheffield flooded this year, it'll probably be Bristol next year.'
But why bother fighting that; if there's improvements that can be quickly and easily, and it is easy for businesses to do it because they save money and make more profit, then everyone's a winner. When the crunch comes, serious action will be too late as usual, we'll be in a far better position to do something about it.
Personal carbon allowances for example. Not much good doing that if you can't count the carbon footprint up.
And so what if its a bunch green-wash greenwash: retailers are using are helping to sensitise people to the issue.