16 March 2007 | Antony Barton
Supermarket chain Tesco is to introduce carbon labelling for its products in an attempt to send "shock waves" through the supply chain.
Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco chief executive, told a business conference this week that the company had started to develop a "universally accepted and commonly understood" measure of the carbon footprint for every product. It considers the life-cycle, from production, through distribution, to consumption. It aims to enable customers to compare products on their carbon footprint as easily as price or nutritional value.
Leahy said: "When millions of customers a week have this information and start using it to exercise green choices it will send very powerful economic signals through the supply chain - shock waves that will change behaviour."
Yet he recognised that some worthy suppliers could suffer from this move. Some of the poorest communities worldwide transport their goods to market by aeroplane, while local produce is often grown in greenhouses, which contribute to carbon emissions.
He said the answer was to provide a simple carbon label, allowing millions of consumers to make the judgments for themselves.
Both Tesco and Marks & Spencer recently committed to work with suppliers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in their supply chains (News, 1 February 2007).