Nutrition labels are quite commonplace in food products and help consumers make informed and healthy choices about their purchases. As per a recent study, about 57% of the consumers base their choice on the information displayed on food labels.
The emerging trend now is Eco-Labels – labels that certify the green credentials of a product. In other words, labels would detail the carbon footprint (i.e. the resources, energy, water etc. used) of the product, to help customers make informed choices on the environmental impact of their purchases.
In mid-July 2009, Walmart Stores announced an environmental labeling program that would require every vendor-no exceptions -to calculate the full environmental impact and cost of their products. Based on this input, Walmart would then assign a green rating to every product in the store. The actual rating system may take as long as five years to implement, but represents a landmark moment for the sustainability movement.
Others are not far behind – Tesco is starting to put a simple carbon label on its food, for e.g. a symbol of an airplane for food transported by air.
This is definitely a step in the right direction, but consumers are already overwhelmed with the information, health related or otherwise, displayed on the packaging. Product labels are crowded with health claims (“helps lower cholesterol”) and nutrient claims (“now with omega-3”). And now to add to this, manufacturers and retailers will also reporting the environmental impact of the product on the label. Numerous eco-labels exist even today and for lack of common standards, consumers are not confident of separating the really green products from those just making claims of being so.
That said, it’s still badly required in a world where we’re depleting resources faster than replacing or regenrating them! We’ve potentially reached the tipping point where each and everyone recognizes the damage we have done (and are doing) with our current lifestyles and are ready to make the necessary changes to make an positive impact. Such information helps consumers to vote with their wallets, which encourages more and more companies to move to sustainable products and service offerings.
Governments and industries will have to work together to come up common standards and rating systems, which will evolve over time to a similar level and proliferation as Nutrition labels today. Nevertheless the direction looks promising.