Companies bet carbon labels can help the climate. Will consumers catch on?


The world is littered with labels – markers that tell you how many calories are in a candy bar or if a tomato is organic. Now, companies are creating labels to show consumers the environmental costs of their daily habits. To learn more, read “Companies bet carbon labels can help the climate. Will consumers catch on?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Carbon labels estimate a product’s environmental impact from cradle to grave as a carbon equivalent reflecting the greenhouse gas emissions or CO2e spent in its creation, transportation, use and end of life, as measured in grams or kilograms of carbon.
  • Eco-labeling is not entirely new. In 2007, PepsiCo rolled out a carbon label for its popular Walkers Crisps. Weighing at 34.5 grams by mass, the chips came with a 75-gram carbon price tag, including emissions required to grow the potatoes, then dehydrate, deep-fry, and package them.
  • Recently, interest in carbon labeling has skyrocketed.
    • Allbirds, a San Francisco-based shoe brand, began including carbon labels on all its products in April 2020, starting with the Dasher running shoe which clocks in with 9kg carbon emissions.
    • Priscilla Tsai, founder of CocoKind, worked with a third party in 2020 to calculate the carbon emissions of her beauty products. The carbon footprint of CocoKind’s Rosewater Toner – 24.5 grams CO2e – is displayed like a nutrition label on its packaging.
    • Panera Bread partnered with World Resources Institute to create a carbon label that identifies meals that fall below a threshold of 5.38kg of carbon emissions – a number WRI says is needed to cut food-related emissions 25% by 2030.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Countless governments have set ambitious carbon neutral targets. Now, they must adopt clear strategies to drive action, developed in collaboration with all sectors of the economy and setting clear milestones for transformation. Carbon labeling is one strategy that can be used to raise awareness about carbon footprints and rethink how products are manufactured to meet the carbon reduction targets identified in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash