This ground-breaking project tested whether providing
environmental information to consumers can help encourage
sustainable consumption habits. The results of the work are
available in the Personal Carbon
Allowances White Paper. The conclusions and
recommendations from our work indicate:
- Context is critical - Providing the environmental context for
typical consumer lifestyle choices can help inform their decision
- Behaviour change is a challenge - The intense emotional
attachment to certain (high carbon) lifestyle choices are difficult
to change. In order to influence change, brands need to stress the
secondary or tertiary direct benefits to consumers' health, wealth
and quality of life.
- Simple measures can add up - Brands have a clear role to play
to help motivate consumers to make changes by illustrating that
event small changes when combined contribute to a significant
Convincing people to change their daily habits - in terms of the
food and drink they consume, and the travel and leisure activities
- is an emotive issue. For a more sustainable world to be
created, however, consumers - as well as big business - must alter
their day-to-day behaviour to cut carbon emissions.
About the Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company is the world's largest beverage company,
refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands.
Led by Coca-Cola, the most valuable brand in the world, its product
portfolio features 15, billion dollar brands including Diet Coke,
Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid,
Simply, Georgia and Del Valle. Globally, it is the No. 1 provider
of sparkling beverages, ready-to-drink coffees, and juices and
juice drinks. Through the world's largest beverage distribution
system, consumers in more than 200 countries consume its drinks at
a rate of 1.8 billion servings a day. Together with its bottling
partners - including Coca-Cola Enterprises - it ranks among the top
10 private employers in the world.
Icons like Coca-Cola - the worlds' most valuable brand and
leading provider of bottled drinks - have the power to galvanise
consumers into action and trigger meaningful shifts in behaviour.
For a challenge of this magnitude and complexity to be tackled
effectively, the strategic input, thought-leadership skills and
resources of a recognised expert in carbon reduction issues and
solutions were required.
That's why the Coca-Cola Company chose to work with the Carbon
Trust; a global authority in carbon reduction management and
technical author of PAS 2050: the international standard for
measuring embodied Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions of products and
The behaviour change challenge
The ultimate goal: how to stimulate behavioural change among
global consumers, in terms of the products and services they
consume, in order to minimise the carbon emissions these emit, and
reduce their personal and collective contribution to climate
"Providing information in a credible, relevant and
understandable way is the key to success. Only then will people
consider the impact of the products and services they consume and
the options available to them in terms of altering their everyday
behaviour," said Tom Cumberlege, Consultant, Business Advice, The
"Context, therefore, is critical. Displaying the Carbon
Reduction Label on pack may quantify the carbon emissions of
the product in question, and the maker's determination to reduce
those emissions; however to trigger a change in behaviour, people
must understand how this fits with the other products and services
they consume on a daily basis. Only then can they decide what
changes - if any - they are willing to make to reduce their
personal carbon footprint."
"To meet Coca-Cola's brief we needed a fresh approach with the
power to educate consumers about the consequences of their actions
and isolate the trigger points for behavioural change in terms of
their everyday consumption of products and services."
"Together we considered the concepts and public education
campaigns that have been understood and embraced by
consumers. Nutritional Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) - the
system which sets an ideal standard for daily calorie and nutrient
consumption - provided us with a possible blueprint for
"We agreed that, by calculating a Personal Carbon Allowance for
individual consumers on a daily basis, we could establish a
meaningful target. Then we needed to develop and test the
best ways of communicating this concept in order to trigger
behavioural change." Said Ulrike Sapiro, Environmental
Sustainability Director of the Coca-Cola Company.
Based on this premise a three-phase feasibility study was mapped
out by the Carbon Trust.
Develop the concept of a carbon GDA - Guideline Daily Allowance
(GDA), using existing national consumption data sets for UK
consumers to calculate the daily amounts used for everyday events.
Then assess an appropriate reduction factor to encourage reductions
in 2011 on a trajectory towards the UK's 80% reduction target by
Test the personal carbon allowance concept as a 'carbon GDA'
Assess whether the carbon GDA concept helps consumers make more
Collect qualitative data from consumers experience living with
carbon GDAs Develop and test options for communicating the carbon
Review the findings and develop a series of recommendations for
shaping related policy decisions in future.
After extensive analysis, eight lifestyle segments were
identified where consumers had the influence to alter their habits.
These were commuting, personal daily travel, electricity, gas, food
and drink consumption, holidays, and emissions from leisure and
lifestyle activities. Further analysis by the Carbon Trust revealed
that the average consumer is responsible for 23.1kg of embodied
CO2e emissions per day from these lifestyle
At a glance
What Coca-Cola wanted to do: establish how to
harness the power of the Coca-Cola brand to inform, educate and
empower individual consumer to reduce their personal carbon
What Coca-Cola did: teamed up with the Carbon
Trust to develop a robust concept and methodology for a Personal Carbon
Allowance and identify the ingredients for success.
What Coca-Cola accomplished: developed a
robust methodology, identified the opportunities and challenges of
this approach and created the evidence needed for the Coca-Cola
Company to move forward with confidence and credibility, recruit
other brand leaders to support this ambitious new drive towards
global sustainability and develop a coherent communications
Next the Carbon Trust needed to establish what degree of carbon
reduction was needed to ensure consumers were on a reduction
trajectory in 2011 to deliver the UK's reduction target by
2050. This would enable a target guideline daily allowance to
be calculated for each lifestyle segment.
"A host of complex issues were considered as part of this
process, such as the merits of a global versus country-specific
allowance, the need for carbon emissions to be gradually reduced
over time and the fact that the reduction rate necessary varies
depending on the consumers' individual life style as well as their
stage of life. After crunching the numbers a daily PCA of 19.9kg
CO2e was agreed. Now we were ready to test the idea."
said Tom Cumberlege.
The Carbon Trust worked with rdsi, an independent market
research consultancy, to test attitudes to climate change, the PCA
concept and personal triggers for behavioural change amongst men
and women of various ages and stages of life - singles, families
and empty nesters with suburban and urban lifestyles. All
participants were 'light greens': defined as people with an
interest in 'green' issues but not yet fully informed or committed
to a particular behaviour.
Participants were given a customised Carbon Footprint Tool -
developed by the Carbon Trust - to record and calculate the
emissions associated with their weekly energy usage, food and drink
consumption, travel details, leisure and lifestyle activities.
"The study confirmed that - while most consumers are willing to
reduce their personal carbon footprint and have a good
understanding of the impact of domestic energy consumption,
transport and recycling, they are confused about the relative
impact of their daily activities in terms of the carbon emissions
embodied in the products and services they use."
I think the idea of having a carbon
GDA would be very beneficial on the whole and I believe that the
majority of people would appreciate the guidance so they have the
choice to alter their lifestyles a little more.
"Importantly, it also revealed that most people view climate
change as an issue of such magnitude and complexity that it is
beyond their personal sphere of influence. They simply do not
see how altering their own every day habits can have a significant
impact on a challenge of this scale.
To trigger a widespread shift in behaviour therefore,
communications must focus on the immediate, tangible benefits
to the individual that have the power to improve their health,
wealth and overall quality of life; with carbon savings promoted
as a value-added bonus." said Tom Cumberlege.
I love my cheese and I will always
buy it, even if you tell me it's bad for my carbon footprint. It
makes me happy.
Dieting, eating carefully watching my weight is more
important to me than thinking about my carbon consumption.
The qualitative feedback from participants suggests they were
far more willing to make tangible changes to their behaviour
because they knew fellow participants also shared a similar
information and communications. Reducing food waste is one area
where participants were both surprised at the relative carbon
footprint and keen to share experiences of reducing their impacts
in this area. The results of the trial also provide interesting
insight for future research. Namely, that there was a noticeable
gap in the attitudes and behaviours relating to food waste between
The project confirmed that a real opportunity exists for an
iconic brand, such as Coca-Cola, to take the lead, by helping
consumers understand how altering their everyday behaviour can make
a meaningful contribution to protecting the environment.
Consumers will positively embrace the brand(s) who help them
understand how to do their bit for the environment, so long as the
information they provide is clear, simple and easy to
As consumers are unaware of the impacts from food and drink and
their leisure and lifestyle activities; a much wider education
campaign is needed to educate people about the relative carbon
emissions embodied in everything they consume.
Importantly, the project has also shown that while consumers are
willing to make changes to their daily lifestyle to reduce their
carbon footprint, carbon-saving in itself is a secondary issue.
Consumers are far more likely to make changes where there are
tangible direct dual benefits.
"Encouraging consumer-led sustainable consumption is a big
challenge for businesses. Together we've explored the potential
that environmental information can play and uncovered valuable
insights into the attitudes and behaviours of consumers. Coca-Cola
does have a powerful brand and we recognise we can help consumers
make a difference and influence behaviours. It's clear that to have
a larger global impact to encourage sustainable consumption we need
to work in partnership with other pioneering organisations. The
Carbon Trust's independence and credibility can help provide a
non-competitive basis for cross-business collaboration and we're
excited at the potential this can have, not only for accelerating
consumer behaviour change, but also for the valuable lessons for
our work has to inform policy makers." said Ulrike Sapiro.
Read more about our work on carbon footprinting with
Coca-cola case study