UK’s biggest supermarket trials Carbon Trust label on 20 of its own-brand products

Tesco has launched a trial of carbon labelling on its own-brand products.

The Carbon Reduction Label developed by the Carbon Trust will soon appear on 20 Tesco products in four different categories: laundry detergent, orange juice, potatoes and light bulbs.

Building on the experience of the Carbon Trust’s trial of the carbon reduction label, Tesco hopes the labels will help customers begin to make informed choices based on the carbon footprint of products and understand how they can best reduce their carbon footprint.

Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy said: ‘We're delighted to be taking this major step with the Carbon Trust. We want to give our customers the power to make informed green choices for their weekly shop, and enlist their help in working towards a revolution in green consumption. We encourage allof our suppliers and competitors to support the Carbon Trust in this collaboration.’

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, added:’There has been a significant groundswell of interest from consumers in the carbon impact of the products they buy. And the collective challenge for businesses is to get meaningful information to them at the right time and place so they can begin to make informed low carbon choices.

“There has been a significant groundswell of interest from consumers in the carbon impact of the products they buy.

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust

‘Tesco is one of eight partners to commit to using the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Reduction label and momentum on this important issue is growing week by week. We hope today’s announcement will further catalyse action from other manufacturers and retailers to drive more and more carbon out of their supply chains and products.’

The label tells customers the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases produced during the life of each product, including use and disposal. On many products the new label will include hints and tips which will help customers understand the simple actions they can take to help tackle climate change (for example, washing clothes at a lower temperature). A number of other Carbon Trust partners are expected to adopt the label shortly.

The carbon footprint measurements revealed that different products have different ‘hot spots’ in their life-cycle. For orange juice, the production phase is the most carbon-intensive stage whereas, for light bulbs, the use phase is the greatest contributor to the carbon footprint.

Steve Howard, chief executive of The Climate Group said: ‘This is a great step forwards in making embedded carbon visible to consumers and suppliers alike. Consumers have been able to count calories for a long time. This scheme will now allow consumers to count carbon and to choose products that result in a low carbon diet. Suppliers will then start to compete for the cleanest, greenest supply chain.’

Methodology and results:

To obtain the carbon footprint of each product, Tesco used the draft standard for product carbon footprinting currently being developed by the Carbon Trust, Defra and BSI British Standards (called the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050). ERM (Environmental Resources Management, one of the world's leading providers of environmental consulting services) supported them in the measurement, and the Carbon Trust verified the data.

Their analysis of 5 washing detergents showed that the liquid washing detergent has a smaller carbon footprint than either washing powder or tablets. This is because less carbon dioxide is created in the manufacture of the ingredients. However, the majority of the carbon dioxide linked to doing your laundry is caused by the washing machine or tumble dryer. Reducing the temperature of the washing machine from 40°C to 30°C saves 160g of CO2 per wash, and natural drying rather than using a tumble dryer can save over 2,000g.

It emerged that the method used to prepare a product was significant too. For King Edwards potatoes, the majority of the carbon footprint is created by the energy used to cook it. Tesco is letting customers know that they can reduce this by choosing to microwave or boil the potato rather than baking it in an oven.


Using on-pack labels and point-of-sale, the labelling will communicate how many grams of carbon dioxide (or equivalent greenhouse gases) were emitted as a result of growing, manufacturing, transporting and storing a product. The calculation also includes the impact of preparing or using a product and then disposing of any waste.

For some products, the label will also give you tips about how to reduce a product's footprint when you cook it, use it or dispose of it. Some labels will also tell you how its carbon footprint compares with other similar products, so customers can tell which has the smaller carbon footprint.

The labels will carry a refreshed label design featuring a carbon footprint logo, the carbon footprint figure, an endorsement from the Carbon Trust and a written reduction commitment from the brand-owner/ manufacturer of the product. To date, Walkers, Boots, Innocent Drinks, Continental Clothing and Halifax have trialled the first version of the Carbon Reduction Label while Mey Selections, Colors and Morphy Richards have also committed to launching labelled products shortly.