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Carbon Labeling for Products from Source to Store

Calculating carbon emissions by supply chain

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carbon label for product development The number on the carbon label is the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases used in the product's manufacture, delivery to store and disposal.

Manufacturers and retailers have yet to come up with an easy way to provide carbon information to customers - essentially because measuring the carbon in a product is very difficult. Some say it’s impossible to get it right. And if you can't get labeling right, you're open to criticism and even regulatory action.

What is Included in Carbon Labeling?

According to the website ingredients included in the carbon footprint of a product include:
  • Emissions across the lifetime of the product
  • Production of raw materials used in manufacturing
  • Disposal of the finished product

Five major steps are included in reporting carbon on a label

  • Analysing internaal product data
  • Building a supply chain process map
  • Defining boundary conditions and identifying data requirements
  • Collecting primary and secondary data
  • Calculating carbon emissions by supply chain process steps
Consumers also have a hard time getting their heads around the real meaning of a product containing "X.x grams of carbon."

But consumers are concerned about their carbon footprint...and the impact of the carbon used to create the products they purchase. More than half of the UK consumers surveyed want better information so they have the choice of switching their purchases.

Multinational companies have such complex supply chains and they shift manufacturing and transportation processes so frequently that the carbon footprint of any given product is constantly in flux.

Some of these companies are moving forward in collecting this kind of data, and six companies have formed the Supply Chain Leadership Coalition (Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Tesco, Nestle. Imperial Tobacco Group and Cadbury Schweppes) to press suppliers to release data bout carbon emissions. Wal-Mart has announced similar plans to begin asking suppliers for data on their energy efficiency.

The Carbon Disclosure Project will survey suppliers about their carbon emissions on behalf of the companies.

The supply chain is an integral part of carbon labeling systems because these manufacturing and transportation suppliers are the source of the basic information needed for carbon labels.

The UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is attempting to establish standards for carbon labels and until this strategy is finalized, the private creation of eco-lables will slow.

The carbon labeling philosophy comes not only with a tangible label on a product, but with a committment by the product company to reduce the figure on that label.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| packaging | carbon footprint | product development | product management |


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