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Carbon labelling sees a focus shift from calories to climate

25 April 2021

In the age of climate change activism, brands are coming under greater scrutiny for their contribution to the climate emergency. Whilst fossil fuels and fashion are seemingly front and centre of the debate, food and beverage is not far behind – with food production responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Food packaging also accounts for a further 5% of the energy used in the lifecycle of a food product, making it a significant source of GHG emissions.

To increase environmental transparency and mitigate carbon emissions, there are a small number of brands leading the way to change. Today we highlight three such brands incorporating carbon footprint labelling on-pack.


Cocokind first launched in November 2014 by Priscilla Tsai, a former Wall Street investment banker who decided to take matters into her own hands after trying but failing to find the right skincare brand to help with her acne. Her products are all-natural food-based skincare products, mostly starting with coconut oil.

What excites us though isn’t so much the product – although our CMO Emily says they’re pretty good – it’s the visual communication of its sustainability credentials. On one side of a package, there’s a long list of sustainability facts laid out like a nutrition label. Here, the product inside has a carbon footprint of 24.50 grams per use, it explains.

Cocokind label with carbon calculations
A Cocokind label showcasing carbon calculations

The label also includes details about the packaging – the sprayer device inside the glass bottle isn’t recyclable, for example – but the most detailed breakdown is to be found about the carbon footprint, calculating the emissions throughout the product’s lifecycle. If you were to scan the QR code on the box, you would see more details.

The brand plans to help consumers understand what the data means by comparing emissions to other sources such as driving a car, a clever move, considering that “25 grams of CO2” doesn’t mean much to non-scientists.


This month, challenger brand TENZING claimed a “world first” as it began rolling out carbon footprint labelling across its range. Using this information, the company has worked out how to offset more carbon than it emits.

Over the past 12 months, TENZING has worked with CarbonCloud to complete a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to analyse the greenhouse gas emissions from every stage of TENZING’s production, or “from crop to can”.

This incorporates all of TENZING’s upstream Scope 3 emissions, as well as most of its downstream emissions.

TENZING drink with climate footprint stamp
TENZING’s unique carbon footprint scoring


Last March, one of the biggest meat alternative brands in the world, Quorn, introduced carbon footprint data for 60% of its product volume with the aim of informing consumers that want to understand the environmental impact of the foods they buy.

The carbon footprint labelling features on the brand’s most popular and long-standing ranges, including Quorn Mince, Quorn Crispy Nuggets and Quorn Sausages.

When this roll-out began in 2020, Quorn was the first meat-free food manufacturer in the world to take the leap in introducing a third party carbon footprint accreditation via the Carbon Trust. Furthermore, the brand was the first food manufacturer to go through the Carbon Trust’s Climate Leadership Framework, to help Quorn identify a roadmap towards achieving net zero emissions.

Quorn package with carbon footprint labelling
Quorn’s famous Spicy Chilli Tacos with carbon footprint labelling

So, what does this teach us?

The worrying reality of climate change is clear for all to see, however, there are some concrete steps that businesses are taking to help make a difference, not the least in the way products are packaged and labelled. Maybe then it might be a good idea to judge a book by its cover for once. Because, although there is still a long way to go, progress is important.