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Oatly calls for carbon labeling for F&B as consumers seek environmental clarity

#Oatly calls for carbon labeling for F&B as consumers seek environmental clarity

17 Nov 2023 — Oatly is calling UK F&B companies to publish the climate footprint of their products via on-pack labels. The campaign comes as the largest Swedish oat drinks company reveals UK consumer research indicating strong support for carbon labeling on food and drink. 

To highlight the campaign, Oatly has publicly challenged the dairy industry to reveal its own climate numbers, so shoppers can make a truly like-for-like comparison. Oatly says it has paid emissions data. 

Young people (18-34) are particularly engaged as they are more interested than other age groups in knowing the carbon footprint of their food and drink. Young adults also agree more with the need for carbon labeling and are more likely to change their consumption habits. 

Labeling arguments 
Oatly has published a Grey Paper titled “Climate Labelling: Why Not.” The paper aims to make the case for mandatory “high-profile” advertising space and offers it to “Big Dairy” for free, if they publish the full climate footprint of their products.

A majority of questioned UK consumers (62%) are in favor of a policy to introduce carbon labeling on food and drink products, and 55% think companies should be obliged to publish that information. 

Oatly posters on house facade in the UK.A majority of questioned UK consumers are in favor of F&B carbon labeling.Furthermore, Oatly’s research finds most consumers (59%) would reduce or stop entirely the consumption of high carbon-footprint food and drink products, if provided with accurate climate labeling, focused on three core arguments:

  • Emissions from the food system, which currently equate to 35% of total UK GHG emissions, must decrease and changes to consumer choice are vital.
  • Consumers are already given similar information elsewhere — for example, EPC certificates when buying a house, emissions data when buying a car or energy rating data when buying a TV or a fridge. The same must apply to food and drink.
  • There is broad public support for mandatory carbon labeling on food and drink as a means to make more informed choices.

Carbon capture technologies, carbon-reduced material development and carbon labeling on products are some of the most prominent methods the industry is using to lower emissions and help consumers reduce their footprint through purchases.

We spoke to Dr. Paul Collins, vice president of sustainability at Huhtamaki, about the strategies the company is implementing, including optimizing energy, water and waste usage to achieve its ambition of being carbon-neutral by 2030.

Meanwhile, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) took action against major water bottle producers, such as Coca-Cola, Danone and Nestlé Waters/Nestlé, for alleged greenwashing.

“Be it about buying new clothes, opening a bank account or buying water bottles, consumers increasingly want to make the most sustainable choice and seek reliable information to do so. However, they are bombarded with incorrect and deceptive claims, so they do not know which claim or label to trust,” says Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of BEUC.

Edited by Natalie Schwertheim

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