Timberland and Carbon Labelling

The Age reports on the new initiative by Timberland to provide carbon labelling on their shoes.

The US-based company’s autumn collection includes a grey fabric sneaker, priced at $US49.99 ($A59.40), and a wool-lined leather clog for $US105.

A close look at the labels reveals, however, that the clog is a bargain when it comes to greenhouse gases that cause global warming: 66 pounds (30 kilograms) of carbon dioxide and other gases were emitted in producing the clog, compared with 88 pounds (40 kilograms) for the sneaker.
Though mostly in use in Britain, the labels are gaining ground in the US. Corporations such as PepsiCo and Wal-Mart are conducting inventories of their products’ carbon emissions and considering labelling.

But climate experts say today’s complex, transnational supply chains make it challenging to accurately assess a product’s carbon footprint — the total emissions generated during production and transportation. And no national standard exists to verify such assertions.
Calculating carbon emissions was simple enough when you’re talking about buying a tank of gas, said Jonathan Pershing, director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute, which developed a widely recognised method for companies to figure their overall greenhouse gas emissions. But it gets tricky for a more complex product, such as a pair of jeans.

“You have to ask, where was that pair of jeans made?” Pershing said. “Was it made with hand labour or a machine, and what was powering the machine? Where did the cotton come from, the United States or Egypt? If it was from Egypt, was it grown with an irrigation system or (rainwater)? All of a sudden, the analysis becomes, at the moment, beyond what we can do.”

Does carbon labelling increase sales? That is the crux of the issue for companies.


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