Where Unilever’s product labeling initiative could have a huge impact

June 26, 2020 by  
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Where Unilever’s product labeling initiative could have a huge impact Jim Giles Fri, 06/26/2020 – 01:00 One of the most significant projects in sustainable food in 2020 was unveiled last week. The news is important partly because of the company involved: CPG behemoth Unilever, which reaches 2.5 billion consumers every day through 400 brands, which range from Ben & Jerry’s to Hellmann’s and appear on shelves in 190 countries.  The other reason is that the plan is genuinely ambitious . The company is committing to net-zero emissions from all products by 2039, spending $1 billion on climate and nature projects over 10 years, and planning on labeling each of its products with information about the carbon emitted in the product’s creation. This last point is particularly significant. Consumers, especially younger adults, consistently say that climate concerns influence their purchasing. Yet this influence is diluted because most people have little insight into the emissions linked to specific products. Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. So will Unilever’s labeling decision change the way people shop? We can’t say for sure, because most consumers have never seen a carbon label. But there’s evidence for optimism. Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. There’s data on the impact of other kinds of labels, for instance. Over the past five years, several countries, including Chile, Mexico and Israel, have attached health warnings to sodas and other sugary beverages. A meta-analysis of 23 studies of these initiatives , released last month, showed the labels work: Consumers who see them are less likely to purchase high-sugar drinks. When carbon labels have been deployed, usually in small experiments, they also seem to work. Researchers at Chalmers Technological University in Sweden, for example, looked at the impact of emissions information on meal choices at their institution’s cafeteria. Sales of high-carbon meat dishes fell by almost 5 percent — a modest drop, but significant for an initial experiment based on a simple intervention.  A final reason for optimism is that while Unilever is by far the biggest food company to roll out carbon labels, it is not alone. Oatly and Quorn recently announced plans to start displaying carbon footprint data on products. Twelve food and beverage brands also have earned the new Climate Neutral certification and began displaying the associated label. Put all that together, and it looks like Unilever’s move could trigger structural change. But before I get carried away, let’s look at two factors that could undermine its impact. First up is the label itself. In an email, Rebecca Marmot, Unilever’s CSO, told me that her company is focusing on collecting footprint data and will turn to the labels once that’s in place. How Unilever eventually communicates carbon levels will be critical. How big will the label be? Where will it appear? Will consumers be able to make sense of it? It won’t be an easy challenge. Space on food packaging is extremely tight, and consumers are already exposed to multiple labels relating to sustainability. (457, by one count ). The second issue is cost. Of those 457 labels, organic is probably the most well known. Demand for organic food has shown double-digit growth in many recent years, yet it still accounts for around only 5 percent of U.S. food sales and less than 1 percent of planted acreage. Cost is critical here: Surveys show that organic food has a 7.5 percent premium, with some goods, including milk, eggs and bread, costing close to twice as much.  This is a reminder that for many consumers, cost trumps environmental concerns. In a way, though, that’s what makes the Unilever announcement so exciting. We’re talking here about the company behind Knorr, Lipton and Magnum. These are not niche brands targeted at affluent, sustainability-minded consumers willing to pay more. By introducing carbon labeling into everyday products found in the biggest chains and the smallest corner stores, Unilever is testing whether environmental concerns resonate with a much, much larger segment of consumers. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote Clearly communicating emissions on every product could leverage those concerns in a scalable way, boosting sales of low-carbon products and punishing emissions-heavy options. Topics Food & Agriculture Marketing & Communication Food & Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Where Unilever’s product labeling initiative could have a huge impact

How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

June 26, 2020 by  
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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice Rachel Ramirez Fri, 06/26/2020 – 00:30 This story originally appeared in Grist;  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story . “I can’t breathe.” These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the United States. But for Black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden. “While many in power seemed surprised that COVID-19 is killing twice as many Black Americans, those of us in the environmental justice movement know that the health impacts of cumulative and disproportionate levels of pollution in our communities have created underlying health conditions that contribute to our higher COVID-19 mortality rates,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said at a virtual press conference in mid-June. Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) , a national coalition of Black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith died , the network just announced that it’s making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice. We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. The network’s mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it’s a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs and healthcare. It’s impossible to untangle Black communities’ current risks from America’s long history of racist policies and practices. Discriminatory policies such as banks’ government-sanctioned refusal to approve home loans and insurance for people in communities of color, also known as redlining, forced Black families into neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution and extreme heat . Now these same communities face a surge in unemployment and poverty rates as a result of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and they also are  disproportionately dying from the novel coronavirus as a result of a lack of health insurance, unequal access to test sites and higher workplace exposure via employment in essential services. As if that weren’t enough, a recent Harvard study also found a link between air pollution and death from COVID-19. Given the systemic conditions that disproportionately expose Black people to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other worsening crises, NBEJN members — including the network’s co-chairs, environmental justice pioneers Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright — say they are looking to bring in Black lawyers, engineers, leaders and other experts to join forces to help create an equitable green stimulus package, take on the fossil fuel industry and fight the Trump administration’s seemingly endless orders to weaken environmental protections . “We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries,” said Bullard, an author and professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “The NBEJN is about dismantling systemic racism, and we’re talking about turning the dominant paradigm on its head.” Network leaders say COVID-19 recovery legislation could be an opportunity for lawmakers to pass a robust green stimulus package that would focus on environmental justice. Such a green stimulus package, the coalition said, needs to address core issues of systemic racism by, for example, providing green jobs to communities of color. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. “Green stimulus packages often only look at protecting the world, but not protecting people like us,” said Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “Any stimulus package dealing with transportation to housing or whatever they’re talking about doing will have to include us and need to be viewed with equity and justice lenses.” Even if an equitable green stimulus package makes it through Congress and the White House, there still will be a lot more work to be done. Bullard said that even if the Democratic party wins the presidential election or takes control of the Senate, it will take time to reverse Trump-era environmental policy damages, including the country’s withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Even then, he added, policymakers will need to take additional steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and center frontline communities. And NBEJN leaders say the network will stick around to make sure those steps are taken. “Racism is baked into America’s DNA,” Bullard said. “NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America.” Pull Quote We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. Topics COVID-19 Policy & Politics Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Tverdokhlib Close Authorship

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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

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