Markets working to support sustainable development

The Carbon Trust Carbon Reduction Label

The Carbon Reduction Label uses carbon foot printing to measure and display the total greenhouse emissions of a product. Products are labelled with a gram/CO2 figure. This is designed to increase the availability of information about the product to consumers and aid their purchasing decisions.

The carbon footprint of a product is calculated using life cycle analysis (LCA) this includes ‘the raw materials and packaging needed to produce it, through to manufacture, transportation, sale to the end user, use and disposal’. The Carbon Reduction Label uses the PAS2050 metholodogy for LCA.

Once the footprint has been fully assessed products can display the label. Products then have to commit to reducing their carbon footprint with assessment taking place every 2 years. The LCA shows 'hotspots' throughout the life cycle of a product and helps to identify areas where reductions can be achieved. If the product does not reduce it's carbon footprint within 2 years then the right to display the label is removed.

By displaying the carbon footprint of products, the label is designed to drive a reduction in overall carbon footprints through consumers preference for lower carbon products. This in turn can potentially lead to reductions in individuals carbon footprint's too.


Market coverage: 

The Carbon Trust Carbon Reduction Label has a relatively large market coverage, thanks in part to its high profile support from Tesco. However, since Tesco have made the decision to phase out the Labelling, it is unlikely the high growth forecasts for the value of labelled products will materialise. The value of products bearing the label in the UK is around £2bn a year in October 2010. This rises to £3bn if products sold to other businesses, i.e. business-to-business, are included. This is comparativley large (by value) in comparison to other 'ecolabel' schemes such as Soil Association 'organic' and Fairtrade.
The Carbon Reduction Label is now used by over 200 organisations in 26 countries (2012). 

Between 2011-2012 The carbon trust carbon reduction label was awarded to 21,000 separate products or SKUs (stock-keeping units), with a global value of over £3 billion. 

In 2012 Tesco, the biggest  announced that it would no longer be participating in the scheme, citing the failure of other organisations to follow its lead, and the time and effort involved in certifying each product "a minimum of several months work". It was only able to add 125 products a year, which appears minor given its target of certifying all 70,000 products.

PepsiCo replied to the announcment that they would continue with the scheme "although they have not seen the take-up they would like". 

Background information: 

The Carbon Trust was set up by the UK government in 2001, as an independent company, tasked with accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy. The Carbon Reduction Label is part of this endeavour.

The Carbon Trust Footprinting Company is a third party body that undertakes footprinting of products and developed out of the Carbon Label Company (formed in 2007) in 2009.

The Carbon Trust (along with Defra) has been central to the development of the PAS2050 LCA methodology.

Funding source: 

Since April 2012, the Trust no longer recieves government funding, and so relies on private funding for its operations. 

Costs of certification are variable – so far ranging from ‘a few thousand pounds’ to much more.Royalty fee for using the label is calculated as a % of sales collected annually.

Notable information: 

Global reach: now appears on products in the US, Canada, China (2012), Korea (2012), Ireland, UK, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Russia and New Zealand.

The 'Footprint Expert' tool that allows companies to produce faster, more efficient carbon footprint measurements is now in use in 22 countries.