Tesco’s plans to put carbon labels on all of its 70,000 products have stalled over the definition of what a food item’s ‘carbon footprint’ should include. One dilemma has been whether the methane produced by cows should count towards the carbon footprint of a joint of beef or not. The project is being developed by Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, which is also considering whether a product’s carbon footprint continues to grow after it has been purchased. Tesco has pledged Â£5mn towards the research.
The Soil Association is considering stripping food which is flown into the UK of its organic label. The organisation could introduce restrictions, or even a ban, on such produce. Supermarkets imported 34 per cent of all organic food in 2005, most of it by air, and it is thought that this trend is environmentally unsound. However, Oxfam said the loss of organic status would threaten the livelihoods of poor farmers in Africa and Central America, as organic food is more highly prized. It is also thought that if proposals go through, shoppers will find it harder to identify food which has been grown naturally.
The shadow environment secretary, Peter Ainsworth, has accused the Government of using taxpayers’ money to ‘bribe’ major companies into cutting Britain’s growing rubbish mountain. While millions of homeowners face punitive charges to get rid of their rubbish, supermarkets and food and drink manufacturers are benefiting from an Â£8mn fund set up to find
ways of reducing packaging.
The Grocer has accused Tesco and Asda of using an excessive number of plastic bags to deliver groceries to online customers. The magazine’s research found that Asda used 13 bags and Tesco 12 bags to deliver 33 products, three times more than the four bags used by Sainsbury’s to deliver 31 products.
The director of the Organic Research Centre, Lawrence Woodward claims that if businesses genuinely intend to turn ‘green’ then fundamental structural changes need to be made. The article questions the acceptance of claims by big companies such as Tesco that they are setting the pace in the fight against climate change and says that merely refocusing public relations and introducing green labels do not go far enough.
The Sunday Times featured a report on the issue of ‘food miles’. The matter has been highlighted recently and products which have been imported from thousands of miles away have been criticised for their environmental impact. However, new research has suggested that for many foods, imported products are responsible for lower carbon emissions than the same foodstuffs produced in Britain.
New research by the University of Wales Institute has revealed that consumers need more information about the environmental impact food if they are to make eco-friendly choices. Retailers including Tesco and Marks & Spencer have stated that they will label products that have been transported by air. However, according to the research, only 2 percent of the environmental impact of food comes from transporting it from farm to shop. The vast majority of its impact comes from food processing, storage, packaging and growing conditions.
The Co-operative Group has won the 2007 Business Commitment to the Environment award after reducing its carbon emissions by 86 per cent and introducing a policy that prohibits it from investing in ‘any business whose core activity contributes to climate change.’
Sir Richard Branson has criticised Marks & Spencer for its policy of reducing ‘food miles.’ The Virgin Atlantic boss said that cutting food imports from Africa will leave millions of farmers in poverty while doing little to stop global warming. He added that moves to reduce imports were a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ by firms desperate to appear to be green.
The Daily Star reported that there is a deep level of public mistrust about worthy causes and politicians and companies boasting about their green credentials according to a new survey by eBay-owned internet shopping site DoorOne.co.uk. Two-thirds of those polled were confused about the titles ‘fair trade’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘organic’ on the products they buy.
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