Azara Blog: Tesco wants to calculate the carbon emissions of its products

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Date published: 2007/01/21

The BBC says:

Supermarket giant Tesco has unveiled wide ranging plans to cut carbon emissions and encourage its customers to buy green.

Tesco said it aimed to develop a carbon footprint labelling measure for all products sold in store, and cut the cost of many energy-efficient goods.

The new "green" labels would allow customers to compare and shop for items which required less energy to produce.
The group also plans to cut emissions from existing stores worldwide by at least 50% by 2020, and would seek to restrict air transport to less than 1% of the firm's products, he added.

Well good on Tesco for trying. But the devil, as always, is in the detail. In particular, how are they going to measure the carbon footprint? Transport is only one contribution. There is also the energy taken to produce the goods. And many non-food goods, and even some food goods, have parts that come from multiple sources. And there is the large, indirect, carbon emission due to labour, which is always ignored but should not be. (Paying someone a salary means that in turn they have money to spend on energy consumption. So having a British worker means that more carbon emissions are created indirectly than having an African one.) Hopefully Tesco will be able to make some headway here and come up with a reasonable measure. A first approximation is that the more something costs, the more carbon emissions have gone into its production. (It is obviously not that simple, because of subsidies, taxation, etc.) Unfortunately there is real uncertainty in any calculation and it is unlikely that they can come up with a truly "correct" value to even with 50%. That is not good. But at least Tesco has no axe to grind when calculating the carbon emissions, unlike the so-called environmentalists. Unfortunately Tesco will rely on other people, who may well have an axe to grind, to do the sums. Hopefully they will ask hard questions of these people.

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