Last updateThu, 24 Sep 2020 6am

ClimatePartner: Statement on mandatory CO2 labelling for food

Moritz Lehmkuhl, founder and managing director of ClimatePartner:

Although many companies are already involved in climate protection, the majority is still a long way from being truly sustainable and climate-neutral.

And yet: ClimatePartner sees a growing awareness of the importance of the issue, both among consumers and in the industry. When the Bundestag now discusses the introduction of mandatory labelling of the CO2 footprint of food, the following aspects, which have been in the background so far, need to be taken into account:
The discussion on the CO2 footprint of a product must cover several actors. As a rule, it is food producers, packaging producers, retailers and finally consumers, who can all have a direct influence on the CO2 footprint of a product: How it was produced or which raw materials were used, how it is packaged, what requirements the food retail trade has for a product and how, when and where the consumer finally decides to buy the product.
In the case of food, the areas of transport, logistics and packaging are particularly important. In the latter case, up to 80 percent of emissions can be saved if low-emission paper is chosen for the cardboard. Here alone, the difference can be between 300 kg and 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of paper.
Regional products are only good for the climate as long as they are consumed regionally. If a litre of milk produced in southern Bavaria is drunk locally, it has a much lower CO2 footprint than if the milk was drunk in Hamburg and has been transported 800 km. In this respect, a uniform indication of the CO2 value of milk is difficult to implement.
Above all, product labelling should be clear and transparent in order to provide consumers with certainty. The mere indication of the amount of CO2 per product is of little help here, as consumers lack the means to classify the proportions. It also implies an absolute guideline value for CO2 and thus a comparability of products, which cannot exist in this form. This is because the current standards leave companies the freedom to set the system limits for calculating emissions individually for each product. Instead, it would be helpful to have information that takes into account the company's overall handling of CO2 emissions during production and distribution.
We at ClimatePartner have experience in labelling a wide variety of food products, from fruit and vegetables to dairy products, bakery and sausage products, processed foods and beverages. The feedback from the respective companies is clear: the unambiguousness of the climate-neutral label with its individual ID number, the transparently deposited information on the extent and value of the offset CO2 emissions and the climate protection projects supported by it is an important feature with which products can be positioned and which provides the consumer with clarity and security in his decision. Should CO2 labelling become mandatory for food products, such a level of transparency and clarity would certainly be desirable.


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