Carbon Footprint Labels Could Be Coming to a Grocery Store Near You

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"It could make shopping sustainably even easier!"

Carbon footprint labels are becoming trendy, with beauty brands like Cocokind adding the information to its packaging and restaurant chain Just Salad adding it to its menu. But have you ever wondered which grocery store foods have the highest carbon footprint?

Unilever is providing some of that insight by introducing carbon footprint labels on some of its products by the end of 2021. The massive company owns popular brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton, Hellmann’s, Breyers, Magnum ice cream, and more. (Aside from food, it also owns personal care brands like Dove and Axe.)

Introducing carbon footprint labels is one of the few ways the company is targeting its goal to achieve zero emissions across operations by 2030. It’s also a monumental step in helping people better identify planet-friendly consumer goods.

“Ideally, we want a world where a carbon footprint is as simple to measure as a calorie count, but it took 30 years to standardize calories and we don’t have 30 years to standardize carbon labels.”

Marc Engel, Unilever’s global head of supply chain

So, what’s Unilever’s plan to make this happen? The carbon footprints of roughly 30,000 of Unilever’s products will be measured within the next six months. From there, a selected range will get carbon footprint labels, which will then be tested on up to two dozen products in Europe or North America. It plans to expand this labeling to its entire product range within 2 to 5 years.

“For the data, we will use a combination of industrial averages taken from approved databases together with actual carbon measures where we have them, such as with our Ben & Jerry’s range,” Marc Engel, Unilever’s global head of supply chain, told The Independent. “We think our labels will be around 85 percent accurate. Ideally, we want a world where a carbon footprint is as simple to measure as a calorie count, but it took 30 years to standardize calories and we don’t have 30 years to standardize carbon labels.”

Unilever also likes the idea of making “carbon-friendly” aisles the next big thing in order to help consumers make greener choices. (Just like the “vegetarian-friendly” or “vegan-friendly” sections you’ll often come across.) Those aisles could be a place to discover sustainable options from other brands, too, and include items like beauty products and home goods.

Hopefully, this big move from Unilever demands a call for similar labeling on a global scale, ensuring all stores and manufacturers are providing more information about the foods we purchase. Transparency and clarity on the impact our choices have on the planet? That’s something we’re all hungrier for.

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