French retailer, Casino, has launched a carbon labelling initiative on a selection of its private label products.
The labelling scheme, according to Casino, uses a colour code denoting the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the manufacturer of a product's packaging, the amount of packaging to be recycled, and the amount of CO2 emitted in transporting the product in terms of truck kilometres.
The supermarket chain said the scheme was driven by its policy of enabling its customers to make an informed choice when purchasing goods.
The retailer said that the initiative was supported by a working group composed of representatives of Casino, consultancy firm BIO Intelligence Service, and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency.
Bio Intelligence Service, according to Casino, developed a methodology to calculate the carbon footprint of each product and a feasibility study was carried out with a dozen suppliers covering 15 very different food products, including frozen fish, yoghurt, prepared salads, pizzas, juices, soups and eggs.
The supermarket chain said that it hopes to carbon label 3,000 of its own brand food products by the end of 2008.
Pressure from consumers, the cost of energy, and corporate social responsibility issues mean that going green is no longer just an add-on but a core part of doing business.
In November 2007, the EU Parliament adopted an own-initiative report about the role of industry and climate change.
The report stressed the need to raise public awareness of consumer products' total environmental costs and it calls for new measures for the provision of information on the energy consumed and greenhouse gases emitted during the manufacture and transport of products placed on sale within the EU.
In France, the issue of carbon labelling was a central concern of the Grenelle de l'Environnement think tank on environmental issues, which took place from July to October 2007.
The British Carbon Trust started a pilot carbon labelling scheme for companies in March 2007 for the UK.
Several companies, including confectionery giant Cadbury, have signed up to the scheme, which requires them to keep track on emissions from throughout the supply chain.
Cadbury has pledged to use the scheme to monitor the production of dairy milk, one of the company's biggest brands.
In January 2007, Tesco CEO Terry Leahy announced the intention of the UK retailer to measure the carbon footprint of its own-label products and a trial of about 20 products has been available in Tesco stores since April 2008.
"We must also help to stimulate the development of low-carbon technology, and work with our suppliers and others to deliver significant CO2 reductions throughout our supply chain end to end," said Leahy at the time.
The Carbon Trust has provided manufacturers with an online carbon calculator that is designed to help companies map their carbon footprint.
The calculator can show how CO2 reduction makes good business, as well as environmental sense, as it will demonstrate how companies can knock off £350m (€486m) from their collective bills, according to the Trust.
Many food and drink manufacturers are also part of the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme under which a plant's CO2 output is fixed for the year. Plants that do not meet the target must purchase CO2 credits on a specially created site.