What makes for a good eco-label? What does a label need to ensure success? Natalie Cotton summarises key messages from the recent live web chat between The CarbonNeutral Company’s Marketing Director and Treehugger.com.
“Carbon neutral labelling could become like Fair Trade”, said The CarbonNeutral Company’s Marketing Director Rebecca Fay, in a recent live chat with Treehugger.com. She made the point that most consumers, presented with two products equal in price and quality, would choose the Fair Trade product. To engage consumers on carbon emissions of products, addressing those first two elements are essential to the middle ground; those who most likely care about the environment but would not prioritise ‘eco’ over other factors. So an eco-label can become mainstream by its introduction to commonplace products – in Fair Trade’s case, we are now accustomed to supermarket bananas carrying the label – rather than by retailers producing specific ‘eco’ products.
Crucial, though, to the success of eco-labels is simplicity, and credibility, of message. Only this week, Tesco announced its decision to abandon its current carbon labelling scheme, blaming the amount of work involved and other supermarkets for failing to follow its lead. Tesco’s carbon labelling scheme gave a carbon footprint for a product, but did not offer a simple means for consumers to understand whether this was low or high compared to other products. Carbon neutral is a much simpler concept, giving a clear statement of positive action that has been taken to remove emissions.
MS demonstrated last year that introducing an environmental label to an item where it’s already trusted for price and quality can really work. The retailer’s Carbon Neutral Bra launched in April 2011 and captured the interest of media, receiving coverage such as this from the Daily Mail. Adding the mark to a popular staple was viewed as ‘making going green even easier’. A simple choice for consumers, backed up by a compelling story of sustainable manufacturing and zero emissions. Rebecca’s final point in the Treehugger discussion was equally as important for any company considering using an ecolabel: with so much information available to consumers today, a brand has to be trusted. A relevant and credible ecolabel can enhance a brand’s reputation, but it won’t create it. Rebecca’s discussion with Treehugger on the value and uses of carbon offsetting, communicating it to consumers, and innovation within carbon offset products can be found here. Her discussion on the role of carbon neutral labels starts at [40:41].