Brands are crafting extreme transparency through holistic and accurate labelling systems, able to trace the environmental and socio-ecological impact of products and services, and communicate it to consumers.
Currently, the majority of brands are not using a standard labelling system, choosing instead to add carbon callouts to labels. WGSN e-commerce data tracks the volume of new-in apparel products with a carbon callout between 2018 and 2021, showing that this is a small but growing approach in the industry. However, some innovators are embracing a new, more accurate system for eco-labelling. In June 2021, H&M announced that it will incorporate the Higg Index Sustainability Profiles on selected products, sharing their environmental and social impact.
Consumer expectations drive shifts
In the food and drink sector, consumer expectations are driving a shift towards a clearer labelling system that communicates the carbon usage of products to the consumer. We have reported how more than two-thirds (67%) of consumers in the US, the UK, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands support a ‘climate labelling’ scheme for food and drink products – an increase in recent years that reflects growing environmental concerns. When given the option of a product with an eco-label and one without, people are more likely to choose the former in 79% of experiments, regardless of the label’s message or format.
A collaborative approach
So how are brands responding? In the UK, supported by the government and companies such as Nestlé, Marks & Spencer and Costa Coffee, non-profit organisation Foundation Earth developed a new rating system for ranking the ecological footprint of foods and beverages that will be launching in autumn 2021.
In the short term, establishing clear definitions around claims is crucial. Consider what issues are most important or relevant to your product or consumer base, and explore which existing labels makes sense for your brand. Be transparent about the science-based efforts you’re making to create more environmentally sustainable products.
In the long term, supporting a move towards a standardised, science-based lifecycle assessment could make it easier for brands to use and implement labels and deliver results that are understandable and meaningful. Adopt assessment tools such as the Higg Materials Sustainability Index to evaluate, report and communicate the ecological impact of products and services across the entire supply chain.
If you’re a WGSN subscriber, you can catch up on our latest Sustainability Bulletin here.