Submitted by: Matthew Robson March 3, 2021
Three of the best contributions labels are making to the sustainability of the planet.
The past year has seen an increasing amount of focus on the sustainability of packaging. Whether it’s the ongoing work in reducing single-use plastic, the rise of e-commerce, or the increase in awareness of wider sustainability issues, a brand’s packaging needs to be as eco-friendly as possible for the brand to thrive.
As yet, the humble label has largely escaped scrutiny, mainly because it’s small and made of paper. But a number of initiatives and innovations around the world are realising the power that labels can have in combating global warming – not in their own sustainability, but in the information they can provide. Here are three of the best:
1. A ‘Färmoscore’ Draw
A Belgian supermarket is using its labels to help its customers make informed decisions when shopping for groceries. Färm has analysed every food product it sells and given it a numerical ‘färmoscore’, calculated using 11 key criteria. Among those criteria are whether the product is organic, whether it was produced in Belgium, the percentage of ingredients that are Belgian, how many resources it has consumed in manufacture, and how the product is packaged.
The result of all this work is that Färm’s customers get an immediate idea of the company behind each product, how far the product and its ingredients have travelled, and the size of carbon footprint the product has.
2. Exposing The Hidden Costs Of Fresh Food
Taking a similar but different approach is De Aanzet, an organic grocery store in Amsterdam. Going against the traditional supermarket priority of keeping customer costs as low as possible, they have actually raised their prices to compensate for the hidden costs of production and distribution.
For the majority of their fresh products, De Aanzet has calculated what the prices would be if all social and environmental costs were taken into account. For example, the air pollution caused by transporting ingredients to a factory, or farm workers whose wages are too low. Labels in the store then break down these costs for the customer, explaining what the extra charges are for – climate tax, for example, or land use. All extra revenue generated from these hidden costs is then used to support harm-reduction projects at two farms and the two NGOs GiveDirectly and Land Life Company.
3. A Pressing Problem
It’s estimated that 80% of the Italian olive oil on the market is either mislabelled or fake, with many olive oils bulked out with cheaper oils or coloured to make them appear extra virgin. This adds up to a huge problem for the olive oil industry, which is worth over $13bn a year, harming sustainable growers and processors around the world.
One answer comes in the form of a QR code printed on the label of olive oil bottles linked to blockchain technology. Scanning this code allows shoppers to trace the product all the way back to the particular groves where the olives were grown, the mills where they were processed, and the store where it was bought. Meanwhile, producers use the code to have a permanent record of the supply chain each bottle has gone through, ensuring freshness and reducing waste.
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