Last week, in a lead article in its business section, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Carbon labels are coming to your shampoo bottle”. Unilever is a prime mover behind the idea. The company has stated that it wants to introduce carbon-footprint details for all 70,000 of its products and is exploring how best to gather and present the information. Apparently, Unilever brands perceived as sustainable have grown faster, in recent years, than those brands that aren’t. L’Oreal is another huge consumer goods company thinking along the same lines. The company has committed that carbon labels will be available for all its rinse-off products, like shampoos, by next year. Today, it provides an online environmental impact score, including carbon emissions, for its Garnier hair products in France. Unilever and L’Oreal – that’s about as mainstream as it gets. And there’s more to the story.
Both companies and another consumer giant, Colgate, among others are united in calling for a standardized way to conduct and report such measurements. Predictably, the European Union favors a law in this regard – and therefore it’s almost inevitable that one will be passed in the near future. Perhaps hedging their bets, consumer goods companies are working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) on a method for the development and exchange of relevant carbon footprint data within the supply chain. For those that are not familiar with the WBCSD, they are a 25-year-old UN spinout, headquartered in Switzerland. 46% of the member companies are European and 13% are in the chemicals industry, the largest industry group. In 2018, the WBCSD, with the ACC and CEFIC published the Chemical Industry SDG roadmap.
If any of this column has been news to you, it’s probably time to familiarize yourself with what’s going on, starting with last week’s WSJ article. Agendas and directions are being set. You’re better off being at the table than reading about it later in the newspaper. That’s the scoop for this week.