Over the last five years, the Carbon Trust has certified
the carbon footprints of a wide range of food products, and
worked with a variety of companies to help them understand the
carbon content of their food.
As a result of their footprinting work, these organisations have
been able to cut carbon and costs thanks to improved operational
efficiencies. Lowering the carbon emissions also leads to enhanced
brand reputation and the ability to demonstrate with confidence and
credibility their commitment to lowering their environmental
Climate Week's focus this year is on the knotty problem of food
and its carbon content; an area in which the Carbon Trust has
When it comes to agriculture, the Carbon Trust has footprinted
48 farm and food products, and we have worked with a number of meat
and dairy businesses to certify footprinting models to measure the
emissions from producing and supplying animal feed, beef and milk.
The footprints we measure and certify can be trusted because of the
robust, internationally recognised standards we measure to.
Why measure carbon footprints of food?
According to a Carbon Trust study, each person in the UK has an
annual carbon footprint of 11 tonnes of CO2 and equivalent (CO2e).
About a fifth of the average personal carbon footprint - the total
amount of carbon we produce from all our activities and the choices
we make in our daily lives - comes from the food we eat. Therefore,
if we are to limit our impact on the environment and help the UK
meet its target of reducing carbon emissions by 34% by 2020, from
1990 base levels, it is critical that we take steps to understand
the carbon impact of our food choices, and then find ways to
balance our daily personal carbon emissions.
footprinting is a first step in uncovering the carbon content
of food and this can be communicated to consumers via labels, such
as the Carbon Reduction Label, to help inform food choices. Carbon
footprinting is also a sensible starting point for businesses to
assess and then work to reduce the carbon in their food
How are carbon emissions generated in the
production of food?
To understand the carbon emissions from food production, you
need to take into account all the carbon-emitting processes that
occur as a result of getting food from the field to our plates:
- Production: Farms generate a large proportion
of the emissions from food production as a result of processes
including deforestation, fertiliser production and use, and
- Origin: Transporting food around and storing
it generates emissions. However, this activity also has the
potential to make the food industry more efficient and
cost-effective by providing food where and when it is
- Seasonality: Growing food out of season,
either in the UK or overseas, can be a high-carbon method of
production. Seasonal food tends to have a lower carbon
- Home care: Food waste in the home directly
increases emissions as extra food production and expense is
required in order to replace wasted food.
Addressing the carbon emissions from food
production and distribution
Product carbon footprinting helps companies and consumers to
understand how products and supply chains are responsible for
carbon emissions, and helps identify the most effective ways of
reducing them. Footprinting highlights the opportunities for
greater energy efficiency, reduced waste, streamlined logistics and
other efficiencies - and the potential to offer consumers lower
The Carbon Trust worked with Kingsmill to calculate and certify
the carbon footprint of Soft White, Tasty Wholemeal and 50/50
bread. All stages along the supply chain were reviewed and the
energy used at each stage was measured in order to ascertain the
carbon emissions produced at each stage in the production of the
loaves. This enabled Kingsmill to outline its carbon reduction
Kingsmill achieved footprint reductions for all three bread
products as a result of replacing older ovens and other
manufacturing equipment with more efficient models. Kingsmill is
making a range of further changes that will lower the amount of
energy it uses across all its operations involved in producing the
loaves, which will hopefully lead to further reductions in the
The footprinting work enabled Kingsmill to identify, and then
focus carbon reduction efforts on, the carbon intensive areas in
their supply chain. Cutting carbon, as well as benefiting the
environment, can help uncover cost savings thanks to improved
energy efficiency and waste reduction. Limiting the environmental
impact of organisational activities can also bring significant
benefits to brand reputation.
Product carbon footprinting helps organisations respond to
customers' increasing demands for information on the environmental
impact of their food choices. Carbon Trust research found that
nearly nine out of ten consumers now want their favourite brands to
help combat the threat of climate change by reducing their carbon
footprint, and almost half actively seek information about the
carbon impact of the everyday products they buy. Also, 61% of the
public are more likely to buy from a company if it has a good
reputation for reducing its impact on climate change.
Find out more about carbon footprint measurement and certification.