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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

Retail ignoring carbon footprints of products

Monday March 15 2010

Consumer product carbon footprints found by researcher to be up to 60% higher than necessary, with simple solutions being ignored by manufacturers

Consumer product carbon footprints found by researcher to be up to 60% higher than necessary, with simple solutions being ignored by manufacturers


If manufacturers were to adopt simple ‘ecodesign’ principles and re-evaluate the production process of just five staple consumer products (kettle, television, mobile phone, fridge, laptop), the UK would save over 8 million tonnes of C02 each year – the equivalent of taking over 19.9 billion road miles off the roads.


These figures result from eight years of product lifecycle assessment (LCA) research into the carbon footprints of over 2,000 consumer products and the examination of manufacturing processes to identify where this can be reduced.


Measures don’t go far enough


Conducted by compliance testing and certification specialist, Bureau Veritas, the research also revealed that most consumer goods are capable of having their carbon footprints reduced by as much as 60%, if manufacturers adopt better ecodesign philosophies and commit to improving their supply chains and production methods; processes that could actually save them money.


The study also highlights that while the Government’s forthcoming Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) legislation will address the energy consumption of large UK businesses and manufacturing companies, it doesn’t address the issue of embedded carbon; carbon resulting from the production of products or parts that are imported from countries outside of the UK or Europe. These product based carbon contributions impact heavily on our total national carbon footprint, as carbon emissions have the same environmental impact regardless of origin.


Working with Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services and its ecodesign solutions team, manufacturers can reduce the environmental impact of their products, reducing carbon footprints by up to 60%, according to the consultancy. The solution from Bureau Veritas is also designed to help save manufacturers money as a result of a more transparent, efficient production process and supply chain.


Highlighting the first-mover advantage


Similarly, with environmental labelling (including carbon footprint) expected to roll out across Europe in the future, it will stand retailers and manufacturers in good stead to act now and ensure they have the ability to measure, report and reduce the environmental impact of the products they make to support consumers in making informed purchasing decisions on environmentally friendly products.


Xavier Vital, of Bureau Veritas, said: “While consumers are making huge efforts to recycle and buy responsibly, many companies are still making and selling products that could easily have their environmental impact reduced considerably, but have yet to take the necessary steps to support the efforts of their customers. Not only would these steps help improve environmental performance and the opinion of many consumers, they would also help manufacturers improve production processes and supply chain efficiencies, and potentially even save them money.


“It is also clear that, as a nation, we will have to do more to quantify and reduce the amount of embedded carbon in the products we consume, which is currently not addressed in the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment.”