Scheme to help create low-carbon products

Companies can get a helping hand in developing low-carbon products from a new Government-funded scheme, aimed at satisfying customer demand for low-carbon goods.

The Carbon Trust, which helps businesses become more energy-efficient, will be helping companies calculate and minimise the carbon emissions created by individual products – a service that is free for small companies.

Following pilots with Walkers crisp manufacturers and the Trinity Mirror newspaper group, the Trust is expanding the scheme to work with a range of companies including chemist retailers Boots who want to develop a “low carbon shampoo.”

“Looking at the carbon footprint of a product – at all the processes and all the raw materials that it takes to get a bag of crisps into the consumer’s hands and then dispose of it afterwards – is just a different way of thinking about the problem [of reducing carbon emissions]” said Euan Murray, strategy manager at the Carbon Trust.

“This is about taking energy saving to the next level, and really revolutionising the way supply chains work and the way products are delivered,” he told edie.

Calculating the carbon footprint of a product involves adding up emissions all along its life cycle, from raw materials to the shelf, consumption and disposal, to then finding the most efficient ways of minimising them.

Much of the contribution can come from outside of the company itself, Euan Murray said:

“For example, we found that the contribution of Trinity Mirror, the publisher, to the total carbon footprint of the Daily Mirror newspaper is only 20%, while 80% comes from other companies in the supply chain,” he said.

The scheme was prompted by evidence of market demand for ‘low carbon products’ following a Carbon Trust-commissioned survey that found 67% of all consumers said ‘carbon footprints’ would influence their choice of product.

This, alongside the benefits of an eco-friendly and the financial savings to be made from cutting energy waste, is attracting increasing numbers of companies to work with the Carbon Trust.

The scheme helped Walkers, owned by PepsiCo, identify ways of saving an annual 2000 tonnes of CO2 while reducing energy bills by £225,000.

The main sources of ‘crisp pollution’ were found in corn or potato growing and in the frying process. The audit pointed to the choice of fuel for frying as critical.

It also identified energy-wasteful processes that straddle different parts of the supply chain.

Emissions from frying potatoes could be reduced by up to 10% by convincing farmers not to artificially humidify potatoes while in storage, for example, as the humidification uses extra energy, increases potatoes’ water content and lengthens the frying time required to make them into crisps.

As much as third of carbon emissions of a packet of Quavers or Doritos comes from its packaging rather than the crisps themselves, the audit found.

Although changing these relations would take more time and effort than, say, changing the type of fuel used, it can benefit both the company and the supplier concerned, Euan Murray said: “This is really about collaboration between companies and their suppliers so that both get energy-saving benefits out of it.”

Martin Miller of the environmental steering group at PepsiCo which owns Walkers, said: “At Walkers, we were keen to work in partnership with the Carbon Trust to help them pioneer this work in the UK. It has also helped us to better understand our environmental responsibilities and better focus our work in reducing our environmental footprint.”

“Delivering low carbon products into the hands of consumers will not only reduce energy bills and enhance corporate and brand reputation; but will open up new revenue streams and increases brand loyalty if properly communicated.”

Apart from their work with Boots, the Carbon Trust will also be helping retailer Marks and Spencer’s calculate and minimise the emissions from their entire food range.

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: “Cutting carbon in the supply chain is the next critical stage in the business contribution to reduce carbon emissions to tackle climate change and, as the Stern report made clear, represents a significant commercial opportunity.”

The carbon audits help companies to:

· Calculate the carbon footprint of a product by measuring life-cycle
emissions across the supply chain

· Identify the main emissions sources

· Identify opportunities to reduce emissions, cut costs and create low-carbon products

Companies interested in participating in the scheme should go to the Carbon Trust Website.

Goska Romanowicz

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