VIEWS: Food for Thought: The Carbon Footprint of your Meal

Dispatched from the SSC Team

Not surprisingly, we love a good sustainable success story. As such, we were thrilled to read Environmental Leader’s article detailing the Dannon Company’s 10% reduction of its carbon footprint, during 2009 alone.  Some of the ways in which Dannon did so include purchasing renewable energy credits, reducing packaging quantities and sourcing ingredients from local producers.

Dannon is a large company with a wealth of resources so it’s ability to make an impact, quickly, should not be met with much surprise. More fascinating, however, are the innumerable ways in which the food industry can be held accountable for it’s environmental impact. Specifically, consumers are now not only examining the carbon footprint of the company from which they buy but also the carbon footprint of the food they plan to eat.

In survey results released early this year, 72% of U.K. consumers were in favor of placing carbon footprint labels on food. The labels, while not required, will inform customers as to how far food has traveled along its journey to the grocery store.

This demand has yet to pick up much steam in the U.S. but is interesting nonetheless. Placing miles traveled upon food will likely result in consumers’ increased purchase of local products. However, due to seasonal availability, a fair amount of produce (especially from large, national, commercial farms) will still travel a long distance to reach its destination. This places the ball in the court of big-time growers. In order to compete with one another, they will need to tap into local markets. More likely, however, is an increased efficiency in transportation modes and routes. Regardless of the changes made, it appears that increased sustainable innovation will become even more necessary for those within the industry to prosper.

As the carbon footprint of food has become a hot topic in the U.K., it seems inevitable that it will become a more prominent issue in the U.S. Our friends across the pond have a track record of declaring the importance of sustainable issues before American consumers latch onto it. In regards to the awareness of what a carbon footprint is, a study conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute revealed that 57% of the U.S. claimed to know, compared to 96% of those in the U.K. The awareness, however, is growing, and thus the onus is placed upon those within the agriculture industry.

Are you in an industry that is evolving at lightning speed? Panicking about what you will need to do in the future? Good news! We can assist. Contact SSC to discuss the ways in which we can help you to identify trends within your industry and provide regulatory insight that will assist you in making long-term decisions.