Archive for the ‘Carbon Labelling’ Category
Two sides of the carbon label
The September edition of The Environmentalist (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment’s member magazine) and the October edition of Marketing Magazine (one of the main journals of the marketing community) both published double-page spreads discussing carbon labelling.
The jury is definitely still out about the effectiveness of labelling and carbon labelling in particular. If research polls are to be believed, consumers are demanding more information on product packaging. According to Harry Morrison (Director of Certification at the Carbon Trust) more than £3bn worth of goods were sold bearing the carbon trust’s carbon reduction label … “as a testament to the label’s success”.
However, the most significant question is not just the degree to which the label has penetrated but whether the label actually influences consumer behaviour.
The best example, which seems to have a significant effect on behaviour is the Fair Trade Foundation label, which last year saw a 40% increase in sales by value, which is impressive. However consumer decision making is a very complex process, where emotions tend to dominate.
Labels will inevitably have a supporting or secondary role, sitting behind or below simple brand perception and loyalty. Particularly in supermarket shopping, consumers make split-second choices based on price, choice and brand. As Lucy Yates (Sustainability Expert at Consumer Focus) stated in The Environmentalist article, consumers spend, on average 16 seconds in a supermarket aisle.
Although labels may not play a very significant role in the aisle, perhaps they play a role back at home – how much cereal packet information is read over breakfast? How much of this sits in the subconscious and starts to influence future decisions? This is perhaps where labels have the potential to create more informed consumers.
It is still early days even with labelling that has been available for a while, such as nutrition on food packaging. For the most engaged consumer, carbon is a hard concept to grasp – even though the information can be conveyed in a single number. To most people it is as difficult to grasp as the torque level of a car engine.
The pioneers in carbon labelling should be praised for their adventure and endeavour but aware of the risks of confusion and in fact the potential to backfire. This was brought home to me at a recent Start Summit where I heard Richard Reed of Innocent proudly proclaiming that one kilogramme of Innocent smoothie would not produce one kilogramme of CO2, but what does this actually mean to a consumer?
Often in debates ,companies will proudly say that 1 kg of smoothie has less carbon than a kilo of concrete (factually correct) – but a consumer isn’t choosing between a healthy beverage and something to lay their patio on. Until multiple manufacturers in the same category buy into carbon labelling there is little on offer to the consumer in terms of increased knowledge which leads to better decisions.
In my view carbon should really only be a corporate, not a brand, issue. Companies should be transparent with their carbon footprint rather than spending a lot money trying to establish facts that actually don’t help in decision making and have no direct benefit to the consumer.
I believe that packaging should only contain information which is of direct benefit to the consumer – such as nutrition or wash temperature. There is a danger of it becoming cluttered with information that attempts to salve the conscious of the producer and that is basically conceptual. More information is, most certainly, not always a good thing.
Are we in danger of confusing why carbon is important? Of course an company should account and in doing so may identify issues that need improving in order to have a significant effect on corporate footprint. This information may also help research and development isolate components that need particular focus and lead to innovation.
Neither article reached a clear conclusion because the issue of carbon are incredibly complex, what it has brought home to me is that it is more an issue for management and corporate communications than it is for brand and consumer communication.
Over the last few months, working with a number of clients on how best to engage their internal teams, one
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It is fantastic to leave a seminar feeling inspired and full of practical ideas. Thursday’s oomph seminar did exactly that, Ben and Dan are naturals at putting an audience at ease which meant real participation from the group. As environmental professionals often form a one person team, it is fantastic to share a room with like minded individuals from local businesses who have faced and tackled similar challenges and can offer insight and advice. Eagerly anticipating the next installment of Oomph!
Nicola Duffy, Environmental Co-ordinator at Highcross, Leicester
Thank you both for inviting us to today’s Oomph seminar. From our point of view, we found the stimulus material and subsequent debate insightful from a sustainability perspective, but also in a wider context applicable to the successful deployment of general business initiatives.
Participant at Oomph Seminar 30 June 2011
Really enjoyed this morning. I have attended very few seminars over the past two years simple because they are all too similar, often the the same speakers and follow the same theme. Today was most importantly enjoyable, interesting and got the brain cells working. I like small groups with variety of people and backgrounds.
Participant at first Oomph Seminar 30 June 2011