UK-based Tesco said today it would map out the carbon dioxide output involved in getting 30 products to the shelves, a bid to develop international labelling standards rating products according to their impact on climate change.
Once a carbon footprint labelling system is developed, consumers would presumably be able to compare similar products in relation to their impact on climate change.
The move by Tesco will eventually force suppliers, including the food and beverage processors who supply private label and branded products, to measure and reduce their CO2 outputs.
Tesco said it would start tracking the CO2 outputs involved in getting to the shelves private label products in five categories - tomatoes, potatoes, orange juice, light bulbs, and washing detergent.
"The announcement marks the latest step in Tesco's quest to offer customers better information about the potential impact on climate change of every product they buy," the retailer stated.
The 30 products will be assessed using the draft standard currently being developed by the Carbon Trust, the UK environmental department and BSI British Standards.
The standard measures the embodied greenhouse gas emissions from products and services.
In September Aggregate Industries, Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola, the Co-operative Group, Halifax, Kimberly-Clark, Marshalls, Mller Dairy (UK) and Scottish & Newcastle signed up to form the second wave of pilot companies to carbon footprint their products using the draft standard.
Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said the Tesco project would allow a more detailed understanding of the impacts of the selected products.
"In addition, it will be crucial in testing the applicability of the draft standard and providing detailed feedback that will help develop a single common standard that can be simply applied across sectors and products categories," he stated.
Terry Leahy, Tesco's chief executive, said a carbon labeling scheme would help customers move toward buying more eco-friendly products.
Measuring the carbon footprint of 30 Tesco own-brand products is the next stage of the journey towards a "clear, universal system of carbon labelling for the weekly shop", he stated.
"We want to help our customers deliver a revolution in green consumption, and this work with the Carbon Trust will bring us a step closer to providing the type of information customers need to make greener choices based on good science," he stated.
The standards, called the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050, aims to measure the embodied greenhouse gas emissions from products and services across their lifecycle.
The standard aims to measure a product's lifecycle from the ingredient stage, manufacturing, packaging and supply chain.
The Carbon Trust initially worked with Walkers Crisps, Boots and Innocent on developing the draft standards, before other companies began signing up to the project.
The Carbon Trust is a private company set up by the UK government to help manufacturers reduce greenhouse gas output.
According to Tetra Pak, a major packaging supplier to the dairy and beverage sector, carbon footprinting labeling will become a major trend over the next decade.
Erika Mink, Tetra Pak's environment director for Europe, said the company is working towards measuing the carbon output of its packaging in preparation for a labeling standard.
For more information on PAS 2050 and it's development, visit www.bsi-global.com.