Oatly campaigns for mandatory climate labelling on food and drinks in the UK

Image: Oatly. Pictured: Carbon footprint labels on cartons

To amplify its campaign, Oatly has publicly challenged dairy companies to disclose their climate data, enabling consumers to make accurate comparisons. Oatly has even provided free high-profile advertising space to ‘Big Dairy’ if they choose to publish the complete climate footprint of their products.

Oatly UK’s general manager Bryan Carroll said: “The food and drink we consume is responsible for a third of total UK emissions. Scientists, including the UK Government’s own Climate Change Committee (CCC), are clear that those emissions must urgently come down and that consumer behaviour change is a necessary part of that.

“Given the urgency of our climate challenge, we believe it should be as easy for shoppers to find the climate impact of what they’re buying, as it is to find its price tag.”

As part of its call for action, Oatly has released a ‘Grey Paper’, aimed at advocating for mandatory climate labelling based on three key arguments including the scientific consensus that emissions from the food system currently constitute 35% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK.

The paper stresses the importance of reducing these emissions and underscores that changes in consumer choices can play a pivotal role.

According to the CCC, a 20% reduction in dairy consumption per capita by 2030 is required to achieve the Sixth Carbon Budget.

The second argument highlights that consumers already receive similar information in various other sectors, such as Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings when purchasing a house, emissions data when buying a car, and Energy Rating data when purchasing electronic appliances. The oat drink giant is urging for the same logic to be applied to food and beverages.

The final argument notes the existence of considerable public support for mandatory carbon labelling on food and drinks, as it empowers consumers to make more informed decisions.

Poll reveals UK consumers support carbon labelling

In a recent survey conducted by Oatly, 62% of 2,000 British adults expressed support for a policy that mandates carbon labelling on food and beverage items.

Additionally, 55% believe that companies should be obligated to disclose this information, while 59% of respondents indicated that they would either reduce or completely stop consuming products with high carbon footprints if they were provided with accurate emissions data.

Among age groups, individuals between 18 and 34 years old displayed the highest level of engagement, with a stronger interest in knowing the carbon footprint of their food and drinks, greater consensus on the necessity of carbon labelling, and a higher likelihood of adjusting their consumption patterns accordingly.

Policy for food labelling

In response to Chris Skidmore’s Independent Review of the Net-Zero Strategy this year, the Government committed to exploring eco-labelling for the embodied emissions of industrial products and is currently consulting on how labelling could support demand for low carbon products. The Government is also working the Food Data Transparency Partnership to develop similar metrics for food labelling.

Oatly has been publishing the climate impact data of its products on-pack in the UK since 2019.

In the coming months, Oatly will persist in urging the food and beverage sector to unite and exert influence on policymakers to enforce compulsory climate labelling.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie