The Future of Carbon Labelling: Webinar Round-up

by Bella Ali-Khan | Environmental | 5 February 2024

Last week we hosted the second instalment of our Ignite Webinar series, focusing on the future of carbon labelling in relation to the food industry. The session was super insightful, with some fantastic points made by our industry expert panellists, which included:

With questions from our Bella Ali-Khan, the panellists really got to the heart of what carbon labelling means for brands, and offered some great tips for how to approach it. So, as is only fair, we’ve distilled some of those points into six top takeaways below. 

And, if you’re scratching your head over just what carbon labelling is, just have a read through our recent article on Carbon labelling with all the nitty gritty of this upcoming EU law.

Jargon sending customers to sleep? Try analogies to help them understand

Communicating complex concepts, such as carbon emissions, to consumers can be a major hurdle. Technical jargon or metrics that are unfamiliar can be lost on the general public, and as a result their power is diminished. It is crucial then to make sure that we can reach consumers in a way that is relevant to them. 

Enter the humble analogy. These relatable comparisons bridge the gap between the unfamiliar and the known, simplifying complex concepts by relating them to everyday experiences.

The benefits of using analogies to help explain foreign concepts are plentiful, and powerful: 

There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account when trying to create the perfect analogy:

Be tangible and vulnerable

On the road to becoming environmentally conscious and responsible, companies need to be transparent and allow themselves to be vulnerable. This is a journey for everyone – don’t be afraid to show your customers that. 

Transparency is not about perfection, it’s about authenticity, showing your commitment to continuous improvement. By clearly sharing your goals and progress, you not only build trust and engagement, but also empower your consumers to become partners in your journey. 

Highlight where you are, admit your areas that can be improved and follow this up with a commitment to grow. Hold yourself accountable and show your progress. 

Be a legitimate part of the solution

By being open and honest on where you are and where you want to go, you can avoid accusations of trying to greenwash your business. Honest transparency creates trust. Consumers are more likely to engage with and support a business that operates with integrity and openly shares its aspirations.

Four steps to transparency 

Allow Carbon emissions to be its own issue

The problem of Carbon emissions is a big beast, and should be treated as such. There is a danger in oversimplifying this problem and trying to shoehorn in other ethical factors, such as animal welfare or biodiversity. Merging sustainable and ethical factors or highlighting one over the other can muddy the waters, or worse create a false narrative that actually promotes a worse situation as better. 

For example, if we were to focus only on the carbon emission factor, and label anything with a lower score as a “better” product, this can have a negative effect by hiding other key ethical considerations. 

Case in point, factory chicken farms have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than that of free range chicken farms, but the public would generally agree free range is more ethically “friendly”. Simply focusing on the carbon emissions can cause consumers confusion, negatively influencing purchase decisions to the detriment of animal welfare.

Clearly then, it is important to talk about ethical and sustainable factors as separate issues – a challenge to be tackled head-on with dedicated strategies for communicating this to your consumers. 

Sustainability comes in second

Consumers today are increasingly choosing food companies with a conscience. Sustainability is valued as an integral part of the equation, but it still comes second to product characteristics that have personal benefits – health, price, and of course taste.

This shift stems from a growing awareness of climate change, and therefore the environmental impact our food choices have. Many consumers recognise that sustainable practices are essential if we are to continue to survive.

Choosing sustainable brands empowers consumers to feel part of the solution, contributing to a healthier planet and a more equitable food system. Slowly but surely, sustainability is moving up the value ladder from a nice to have to a necessity. It’s no longer a nice addition – sustainability will become an essential factor in consumers choosing the food they consume from brands they trust.

Progress = alignment, not addition

Forcing a new carbon initiative into your business just to try and win brownie points simply won’t cut it. True progress demands alignment, not addition. Sustainable and ethical initiatives need to be a legitimate part of your company’s strategy, part of your journey to achieving success with your target audience. 

Consumers are ever-savvier, well able to identify when a brand truly means what it says and when it’s an exercise in box-ticking. So be honest and open about why you are carbon labelling. Let that be a part of your brand story, not the story itself. 

Carbon labelling is a how, not a why. Your why should be aligned with your brand’s story, its purpose and positioning. Carbon labelling should feel like the right decision for the brand you are trying to be.


Did you make it to our webinar? We’d love to hear your feedback! Get in touch on social media. Or if you’re in need of strategic support with your sustainable journey, we’d love to chat:

Missed the session? Do not worry; you can also watch the full webinar discussion below.