Climate labelling: oat milk giant Oatly calls for 'mandatory' carbon footprint info on all UK food packaging
The company wants it to be as easy for shoppers to find the climate impact of what they’re buying as it is to find its price tag
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Oatly has launched a new campaign calling for all UK food and drink companies to follow its lead and publish the climate footprint of their products - so shoppers can make an informed choice.
The UK government has recently formed the Food Data Transparency Partnership which, among other objectives, is exploring possible climate labelling policies for food and drink. Oatly has already been doing this since 2019, and the company says it is keen to share its own experience of climate-labelling with policy-makers and industry.
To kick off its campaign, the Swedish alternative milk giant has also offered to buy high-profile advertising space and give it to a "big dairy" company for free, provided they also agree to publish the full climate footprint of their products.
Oatly's UK general manager Bryan Carroll said: "The food and drink we consume is responsible for a third of total UK emissions. Scientists, including the UK Government’s own Climate Change Committee, are clear that those emissions must urgently come down and that consumer behaviour change is a necessary part of that."
But he said the company's view was that it was "unreasonable" to expect this to happen when consumers were not being given the information they needed to make informed choices. "Given the urgency of our climate challenge, we believe it should be as easy for shoppers to find the climate impact of what they’re buying, as it is to find its price tag.”
Oatly has also published was it calls a "grey paper" to make the case for mandatory climate labelling on food. The papers says that the science is unequivocal - emissions from the food system, which currently equate to 35% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions, must come down, and as the Climate Change Commission - the government's climate advisory group - says, consumers can make a big difference through their choices.
Consumers were already given similar information elsewhere - like emissions data when buying a car, or energy rating data when buying a TV or a fridge - they said, and their own polling revealed British consumers already generally supported the idea of carbon labelling on food and drink, with 62% in favour of introducing it - and 55% thinking companies should be obligated to publish that information.
“Climate labelling isn’t a black and white issue where certain foods are good and others are not," Mr Carroll continued. "This is about giving consumers the freedom to make informed choices about what they’re buying and how it impacts the planet – from grower to grocer."
Over the next few months, he said they would work with businesses across the full spectrum of the food industry, encouraging them to come together and work out what an effective climate labelling system should look like. "One that doesn’t cost the earth but helps preserve the Earth. Together we can put collective pressure on the UK government to make this happen and not get watered down like some other environmental policies have, sadly, been lately.”