Industry Leaders Talk Strategy for Carbon & Eco-Labeling January 13, 2022 by Leah Wolfe
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Eco- and carbon-labeling is front of mind for CPGs, retailers, and suppliers alike as they’re being confronted with consumer demand and government regulations regarding front-of-package labels. As more companies move forward with carbon and eco-labeling schemes, strategies for ensuring their integrity as well as return-on-investment will become increasingly essential. 


We’re reflecting on our Future of Labeling & Carbon Transparency innovation series, where leaders in the industry spoke about their methods for communicating sustainable impact to consumers, maintaining certifications’ probity, and making sure transparency translates to action.

Backing up on-pack claims

Diego Saez Gil Pachama

We’re just beginning to see a desire from consumers to know the climate impact of a product and to know what a company is doing to reduce and compensate for their climate impact. It used to be that a company could easily say “this is a carbon-neutral product” without anything to back it up. That is not the case anymore, consumers want to see what is behind those claims.

Contextualizing carbon and eco-labels for the average consumer

Dr. Anastasia Volkova ReGrow

We’ve been in a world where getting off animal protein and getting on the plant protein gets a lot of attention. That has penetrated the public’s attention and field of view, but that’s not the whole problem with agricultural emissions. The more widespread the themes and real-world numbers that we can communicate in a way that is contextualized for the consumer the greater the impact on our supply chains.

Jennifer McKnight Airly Foods

It’s almost like you can’t be real. You can’t be doing good unless you check these 37 boxes and by the time you get to those 37 boxes, 10 years have passed and you haven’t actually made a positive impact. At the end of the day, greenhouse gases have the tightest link to climate change. That being said, we know that by carbon farming, we’re actually checking a lot of those other boxes. We’re increasing soil health, we’re increasing biodiversity within the farm, we’re helping with water conservation. All those things are coming along, we’re just not trying to overwhelm the consumer with every single check box.

Sandra Noonan Just Salad

We started carbon labeling in a spirit of learning. We were looking for a new way to talk about food and climate change – we know that 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system. As a brand Just Salad that has championed re-use for 16 years through this reusable bowl program, we felt that we wanted to talk about food in a way that was as innovative and fresh, and new as our reusable bowl program. We said, well, carbon labels sound pretty different, and maybe that would get our customers excited and interested in the link between food and planetary health. So for us, it was just a way to open up a new dialogue.

Developing a unified labeling scheme

Al Toops Biome Makers

What we really need is to come up with some kind of standard carbon measurement method that is followed in order to receive the carbon credits. I don’t know how that’s going to happen or what kind of legislation will have to be in place. But the question is, how will we all work together?

Maintaining the integrity of certifications

Elizabeth Whitlow Regenerative Organic Alliance

There was a time when the term regenerative was pretty new and it wasn’t just rolling off people’s tongues. Now you’re hearing it everywhere and it’s become quite the buzzword, which is awesome in many ways, but it’s also a concern because we don’t want this to get watered down and turned into something like “natural” or “sustainable”, without any serious credentials system behind it. That part is really important in making sure to keep it meaningful.

Holding companies accountable for their in-house labels

Mary Linnell-Simmons FairTrade America

We’ve been seeing this a lot in our industry recently where a large multinational will just go their own way and create their own label to meet their own criteria, which on the one hand is good for achieving the goals that they particularly have in mind. On the other hand, it is always inherently biased because the company’s ultimate goal in many cases is to be profitable, which is sometimes in direct contrast to the wellbeing of workers or farmers, for example. This kind of trend of some self-certificate is in all honesty, just fake labeling.

I won’t say who, but there’s a local coffee company that has just created a “fair trade label” that has no meaning or backing behind it in terms of any of the certification schemes out there. It really does diminish people’s trust when they see all these labels, but they don’t necessarily know which can be trusted. So that regularity and consistency across products, across brands, across commodities of seeing the same little logo is really important to continue to build that trust and authenticity.

View past innovation series sessions in full and get notified to register for our upcoming series, Shaping Regenerative Procurement Strategy   here

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Regulatory trends in sustainability: How food brands should prepare in the next 6-12 months

SEPTEMBER 12, 2023 | 12 – 1 PM EST
Join HowGood’s General Counsel for an overview of some of the upcoming key global sustainability regulations that should be top-of-mind for food industry professionals, with a focus on what and how to best prepare.