Azara Blog: Tesco will introduce labels allegedly showing carbon footprints of goods

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Date published: 2008/04/29

The BBC says:

Supermaket chain Tesco has announced that a range of its own-brand products will carry labels showing the size of the goods' carbon footprints.

Tesco said it would label 20 items, including light bulbs and potatoes, during a two-year trial of the scheme, which is operated by the Carbon Trust.

Shoppers will be able to see how much carbon is emitted over the life of a product - from manufacture to disposal.

The store said it was introducing the labels in response to consumer demand.

Well, the bit about "consumer demand" is a bit of a joke. The only people who have demanded this are the academic middle class, and they generally shop in Waitrose (or some obscure corner shop) instead of Tesco.

More to the point, how accurate is the result going to be? It's extremely difficult to measure this kind of thing. Worse, it will ignore indirect carbon emissions due to labour (so someone who is paid at any point in the chain in turn uses the money they are paid to buy goods that have a carbon footprint, so those emissions are indirectly part of the whole chain). And because of all the uncertainty, no doubt two different "experts" could come up with two completely different values. Tesco will pretend the numbers are certain, when they are not.

And the academic middle class will be none too pleased when it turns out that British tomatoes (etc.) have far more emissions than tomatoes grown in Spain and trucked all the way up to Britain. Or is Tesco going to skew the results to show (or find an appropriate "expert" to claim) that British is always best.

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