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The Role of Carbon Footprint Reduction in the Food and Drink Industry

Reaching consensus on measuring and reporting carbon footprint, reducing carbon emissions while maintaining or improving cost efficiencies, as well as dealing with legal imperatives to reduce emissions and understanding consumer attitudes to sustainability are just some of the challenges that the food and drinks industry must face if it is to meet future demand for carbon reduction effectively.

Features and benefits

  • Understand the commercial, legal, and consumer imperatives which drive the need for carbon reduction and reporting in the food and drink industry.
  • Gain an insight into the significant sources of carbon emissions in the food and drink supply chain - and measures being taken to reduce them.
  • Assess the different issues surrounding carbon footprint measuring and reporting, including the complexities of carbon footprint labeling.
  • Understand how carbon emissions reduction can take place at the same time as maintaining or improving productivity and efficiency.
  • Gain an insight into how carbon emissions reduction and carbon footprint labeling will need to develop if it is to make progress in the long term.


Given consumer, commercial, and legal imperatives for action on carbon emissions reduction, carbon footprinting will remain a permanent part of the food and drink landscape. What is less certain is whether carbon footprint reduction will drive consumer purchasing decisions, or whether reporting carbon footprint drives meaningful carbon reduction.

The term carbon footprint is ubiquitous in the public sphere but agreement on how to measure it is not clear: should it include indirect emissions or simply direct emissions? In many cases the ability to take the more comprehensive approach by including indirect emissions is limited by data quality and the ability to procure it from suppliers.

Overcoming the lack of consumer engagement and understanding of what carbon footprint measurement and reduction means in real terms is one of the first and most significant challenges that food and drinks manufacturers will have to overcome. Reaching a critical mass of carbon footprint labeling will be a key driver of this.

Your key questions answered

  • What do consumers think about sustainability and why should the industry act when consumer buying behavior doesn't match up to their attitudes?
  • What are the major legal frameworks in place to encourage and enforce carbon reduction and how do they apply to the food and drink industry?
  • Which non-governmental bodies are having an impact on carbon reduction in the food and drink industry? What is their approach to helping businesses?
  • What are the key challenges involved in comprehensive carbon footprint labeling programs? How can they be overcome?
  • What's the long-term outlook for carbon emissions reduction and cabon footprint labeling in the food and drinks industry?

Table of Contents

Sarah Chambers

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  • Introduction
  • Imperatives to take action on carbon in the food and drink industry
  • Sources of carbon emissions and reductions in the food and drink industry
  • Key issues in carbon footprinting in the food and drink industry: measurement, labeling, and engagement
  • The future of carbon reduction in the food and drink industry


  • Summary
  • Introduction
    • Measuring and reporting carbon footprint
    • Implementing solutions to reduce carbon footprint
    • Imperatives for action
    • Methodology
    • Definition: CO2 equivalent (CO2e)
  • The impact of carbon emissions on the environment

Imperatives to take action on carbon in the food and drink industry

  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Commercial drivers for carbon reduction
    • The Triple Bottom Line
    • The effect of economic decline on sustainability initiatives
    • Rising energy costs
  • Consumer drivers for carbon reduction
    • Sustainability is part of every-day life
    • Consumers want genuine and holistic sustainability efforts
  • Legislative drivers for carbon reduction
    • Applying carbon legislation to the food and drink industry
  • Non-governmental organizations
    • Waste & Resources Action Program (WRAP)
    • The Carbon Trust
    • The Carbon Disclosure Project
  • Carbon trading
    • Carbon trading in the European Union
    • Carbon trading in New Zealand
    • Carbon trading in Australia
    • Carbon trading in the United States
  • Other energy efficiency regulations
  • Conclusion

Sources of carbon emissions and reductions in the food and drink industry

  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Greenhouse gas emissions in food and drink production
    • Emissions in the agricultural sector
    • Emissions from processing and manufacturing
    • Emissions from packaging
    • Emissions from transportation
    • Emissions from retail outlets
    • Emissions from food and drink waste
  • Conclusions

Key issues in carbon footprinting in the food and drink industry: measurement, labeling, and engagement

  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Defining a carbon footprint
    • Methodologies for defining and measuring carbon footprint
  • The challenge of creating carbon footprint labeling for food and drink products
    • The costs involved in carbon labeling
    • The operational complexities of carbon labeling and reporting
    • The consumer challenge for carbon labeling
    • The need to achieve critical mass to drive uptake and understanding
  • Putting the brakes on carbon footprint labeling: Innocent and Tesco
  • Conclusion

The future of carbon reduction in the food and drink industry

  • Summary
  • Carbon footprint measurement and reduction will be a permanent part of the food and drink industry landscape
  • A slow start, but there is hope for the future
  • Using carbon labeling to drive long-term behavior change: the need to achieve “critical mass”
  • Achieving a step-change in carbon reductions in the long term


  • Glossary
  • Bibliography/References


  • Table: Global Warming Potential (GWP)
  • Table: CO 2 Emissions by mode of transport


  • Figure: Global average near-surface temperature anomalies 1850-2009
  • Figure: The triple bottom line
  • Figure: Food is important in many areas of policy
  • Figure: Greenhouse gas emissions by source, 2000
  • Figure: GHG Emissions in the food and drink industry in the EU27
  • Figure: The UK's food-related carbon footprint
  • Figure: Courtauld Phase 2 Targets
  • Figure: Environmental impacts in the supply chain
  • Figure: Tesco's direct greenhouse gas emissions
  • Figure: Food and drink waste generated in UK households
  • Figure: Carbon footprint labels, Walkers Crisps and Kingsmill bread
  • Figure: PepsiCo sustainability strategy
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