F&B brands urged to sign up to new eco-label certification program to push on-pack zero carbon emission claims
03 Mar 2021 --- As industry accelerates toward net-zero emissions, non-profit organization Climate Neutral is piloting an eco label that certifies a product’s carbon neutrality. It will ensure that companies and brands are held accountable for their carbon emissions – helping products stand out from competitors on the shelf.
The new label “Climate Neutral Certified” joins similar schemes including USDA Organic, Non-GMO and Fair Trade.
“The F&B industry is extremely competitive, and it’s often hard for brands to set themselves apart at the point of purchase,” Austin Whitman, CEO of Climate Neutral tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Industry has previously rallied around other consumer-facing labels and recognizes the benefits of a certified label in setting brands apart on shelf space and mobilizing corporate change,” he details.
“We’re starting to see many brands from the F&B industry move toward certification. It creates a momentum effect as companies feel left behind or fear losing out.”
Whitman expects that carbon neutrality spanning across industry will happen eventually. “It’s just a question of when you decide to do it. Every business will be shooting towards net-zero in the future.”
“As a company executive, you need to determine whether you want to be on the leading end of that wave or trailing it, and what the implications are for your customers.”
Rapidly scaling up
In the past two years since conception, the non-profit organization has claimed to have helped offset over 1.2 million metric tons of carbon.
The F&B category alone represents 12 percent of brands holding the “Climate Neutral Certified” label across ten accredited industries.
The certifior has committed brands such as Bread Alone, Numi Tea, Cha Cha Matcha, as well as a variety of alcohol brands like Fossil Craft Beer, Appalachian Gap Distillery and Lubanzi Wines.
“The goal of our label is to be universally recognized, spanning across every industry. Our first certification year was a huge success. Now that we’ve proven the concept, we aim to scale,” continues Whitman.
“This April, we are aiming for 300 certified brands. Next year, we will aim for 750. We'll get there faster if more consumers tell brands that this needs to be the new normal,” he affirms.
Carbon neutrality in the certification sphere
Industry has previously rallied around other consumer-facing labels – such as USDA Organic, Non-GMO and Fair Trade – and recognizes the benefits of a certified label in setting brands apart on shelf space and mobilizing corporate change.
Working through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Climate Neutral managed to scale its model with over 300 percent growth in committed brands.
Roadmap to certification
Any brand can apply to become Climate Neutral Certified.
To achieve certification, brands must measure their carbon footprint, offset the entire footprint through verified carbon credits, and implement reduction action plans to continue reducing their carbon footprints to net-zero carbon emissions.
“To measure all certified brand’s carbon footprints, we utilize our Brand Emissions Estimator tool, a calculator that takes high-level business data and computes a carbon footprint estimation encompassing Scope 1 to 3 emissions,” details Whitman.
“Brands are genuinely surprised when we are able to distill the process down into simple, manageable steps and provide guidance on meaningful ways to reduce future emissions.”
Climate Neutral offers brands the resources and guidance they need throughout the certification journey, which typically takes around one to three months from start to finish.
Carbon credit scheme
Once a company has calculated last year’s emissions, they proceed with purchasing “carbon credits” to remove them from the atmosphere to be classified as “neutral.”
One carbon credit is a certificate generated when someone takes an action to eliminate or avoid the emission of one metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions.
Entities that develop carbon-eliminating or carbon-avoiding projects can earn carbon credits, which are verified by a third-party.
One carbon credit removes or avoids one metric of carbon emissions. Projects like reforestation remove carbon from the atmosphere, while renewable energy avoids emissions from traditional fossil fuels.
“A huge goal of ours is transparency in our certification standards,” Whitman remarks.
“A considerable flaw plaguing sustainability efforts is the lack of transparency and vague marketing terms across industries. It leaves consumers feeling confused and skeptical about the actions brands are taking.”
“Transparency Triumphs” was crowned Top Trend for 2021 by Innova Market Insights and is expected to lead the charge in product development, this year and beyond.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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