Provide measures to people so that they can make smart decisions in their buying process and have an effective impact on climate change
It's all about data
CO2 concentration is dangerously skyrocketing. Although medias continuously inform people about that fact, consumers don't feel concerned, or don't know what to do.
Lets take an example. Producing 1lbs of Beef emits 27lbs of CO2. A car emits that much of CO2 after traveling 150 miles !
Some people know that, grabbing this kind of information here and there from medias. But some is too few. On the other hand, most people know how their car performs, how many miles per gallon they do, often leading to fact-based discussions between friends.
Providing data to make right decision
In order to discuss and make informed decisions, consumers need to know and have facts about products they buy. If CO2 emission related to product they buy is clearly indicated on each product package (like "Nutrition Facts"), consumers will have enough data to make a smart decision based on their beliefs or their needs.
Doing so, one could decide to buy a product similar to another, but with a lower environmental footprint. Some consumers will even pay more for that, benefiting to producers who take care of environment and who put efforts in the right direction.
From companies standpoint
Companies could argue this information is complex to capture: How can they know the CO2 emitted by their vendors ?
In fact, companies already collect a lot of information about ingredients or parts included in their products: Cost, country of origin, lot number, etc... Emitted CO2, at the end, is just another attribute of their product.
In the case this information is not made available from vendor, a reasonable estimate would be better than nothing at all. The most important thing is that this information is displayed to end-consumer.
What about all logistics-related emission ?
Products move, they move a lot, and this emits CO2. People involved in the chain from manufacturing up to the consumer produce CO2 as well.
An average CO2 emission should be included by the manufacturer in calculation.
Category of the action
Changing public perceptions on climate change
What actions do you propose?
Display CO2 Footprint on Packages
Propose to companies to display their CO2 footprint on packaging. This could be made on a voluntary basis.
Consumers can sometimes push hard to force an industry to go in a specific direction. With proper media influence, companies who transparently show CO2 footprint of their products could gain a competitive advantage.
Let's take an example. Some hardwood floor is made from wood cut in US, shipped to China, transformed, shipped back to US and then distributed to consumers. And it's even cheaper than hardwood floor 100% made in US. Obviously, this information is carefully hidden to the consumer and sometimes it's not even publicized that it's made in China. Having in hand CO2 emitted, consumers could easily see that it's a really bad choice from an environmental standpoint, even if the price seems correct.
About CO2 Footprint Calculation
Simplicity must be favored over accuracy. Companies should provide a reasonable estimate of their product's CO2 footprint.
What should be included in this calculation ? How can we measure it ?
There are 3 aspects in CO2 footprint calculation: Manufacturing, Employees and Distribution. There are many ways to evaluate it, but again, a reasonable estimate can be done.
Manufacturing must take 3 factors into account: CO2 footprint of what they buy, energy used, CO2 emitted as a by-product.
- CO2 footprint of supply chain is probably not that easy to obtain. If the vendor does not provide it, a reasonable estimate should be used. This could eventually rely on a publicly available database.
- Energy used by the manufacturing process could be based on energy consumed to manufacture the product, and how this energy is produced. Each company knows exactly how much energy they consume, how many products are manufactured, how many time is spent per product, and it's quite easy to know how this energy is produced. At the end, determining CO2 footprint of manufacturing process is not rocket science.
- Industries producing CO2 as a by-product (for example, bovine industry), could either measure their own CO2 production or rely on a publicly available database.
Employees may live near of far from their work, they will use their car or public transportation (or walk !), twice every day. They do have an impact on the CO2 footprint as well. Here again, knowing the mode of transport and distance made by each employee, a reasonable estimate of CO2 footprint can be made and included in calculation.
Manufacturers usually knows their market, and how their goods are distributed, which mode of transport is used, whether there are distributors or not.
Manufacturers should analyze their distribution chains, up to the consumer, and evaluate a reasonable estimate of the CO2 footprint generated by this distribution chain up to the consumer. Since all consumers do not live at the same place, an average based on 20% of their market could be used.Compani
Who will take these actions?
Manufacturers, with help of their vendors and distributors. The goal is to display the CO2 footprint on packages. So this information must be known at time of package printing.
Where will these actions be taken?
- US & Canada first
- Others if interested
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
Difficult to answer. But lets take our example of beef and make some assumptions.
In 2012, beef consumption was about 26 billion lbs. If we assume:
- That consumers make decision to consume low-CO2 emitting beef
- That only 10% of total beef consumption is impacted
- That a gain of 10% (2.7 lbs) of CO2 per lbs of beef can be achieved
This would result in a reduction of 7 billion lbs of CO2 produced each year, equivalent to removing 350.000 cars from circulation.
This example is only for beef and illustrates that if consumers have data in hand to make environmental-friendly decision, this can have a huge impact.
What are other key benefits?
- Long-term solution : If more and more companies get involved, consumers will have all in hand to make right decisions. Today, this is almost impossible.
What are the proposal’s costs?
Most of the cost will be on manufacturer's side, to evaluate CO2 footprint of their products. However, this is mainly a one-time cost as any subsequent product will benefit from all previous calculations put in place.
- 3 years should be allowed to companies to collect/measure CO2 consumption resulting from manufacturing and distributing their products, and display it on packaging
- 2 years should be allowed to inform consumers correctly
- Positive effects should be visible in the next 5 years