Saturday, January 3, 2009

Big Foot: the carbon footprint and barriers to trade

Here is an interesting read from the USDA FAS on the UK's unstoppable obsession with the carbon footprint and how it may affect trade.Carbon footprinting may soon become a requirement to supplying big business in the UK.

Driven by the Prime Minister’s aggressive Climate Change policy, the UK has decided that it cannot wait for a European or International Standard for calculating greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufactured products and has published Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050. Many blue chip companies have already adopted the methodology, including leading supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s. US companies may not be ready to meet the requests for data from their UK customers. Similarly problematic, the methodology that the US company might have used at home may not be compatible with the UK approach. Supplying data will involve added costs for the supply chain, and products may be de-listed if they do not have an acceptable carbon footprint


There is a new phrase adopted by the retail industry in the UK, “Choice Editing”, and it has even been used in presentations by the government department Defra. It is expected that the UK's major supermarket chains will choose products with better environmental credentials making the switch to environmentally friendly products easier for the consumer. It is clear from the speed that this approach is being adopted by UK business, when there is no imperative to do it, that US businesses will have to provide carbon information and look to reduce the carbon footprint of a product or risk losing sales.

TK: Can a carbon footprint label system effectively discourage consumption? Given the fact that retailers are choosing to selectively highlight the carbon footprint score of environmentally friendly products, won't creeping consumer cynicism rapidly overrun this effort for all except the most sold out green consumers? This entire effort seems like a massive waste of resources to me, but I'm obviously out of touch on this issue....

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