Carbon is fast becoming the new currency. Following the launch of the 'We're In This Together campaign' last week, eight major companies have committed to engage proactively with their customers. This move, connecting business to its customer base, is welcome and part of a string of business announcements on climate change since the beginning of the year.
Carbon will have to be factored into virtually every decision we make if we are to make the rapid transition to a low-carbon economy and preserve our environment alongside our economic well-being. And carbon-conscious consumers, ready and willing to take action on climate change, are already starting to emerge. Our own research found two thirds of us are more likely to buy products and services with a low carbon footprint.
We believe stripping carbon from the supply chain is the next carbon front for business, which is why we have launched a carbon reduction label. It shows how much carbon has been put into the atmosphere to get a product - whether it be crisps, shampoo or smoothies - from source to store.
Critically, our label shows a commitment by participating companies to reduce the carbon emitted in the production of products for good by removing carbon from their supply chains and producing lower-carbon products. If they don't cut the level of carbon, they lose the label. It's as simple as that.
Since its launch in March, more than 100 companies have registered their interest in our scheme across numerous sectors and industries. This initial response is encouraging and demonstrates our belief that businesses want to act in this important area. We believe that developing a single universal standard is imperative. Competing schemes would only serve to confuse and increase the chance that our carbon-conscious consumer will eventually tune out.
Coming to a consensus on the best way to measure a product's carbon footprint is not going to be easy. That is why we have established a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to steer us through this course.
Led by Professor Jim Skea, research director of the UK Energy Resource Centre (UKERC), it will be TAG's role to consult on the most appropriate methodology and establish a universal standard to which everyone can sign up. We have already had hundreds of conversations with interested groups and stakeholders.
Our first TAG meeting will be held this month and a consultation will be launched soon after. Issues such as whether or not the label should include the amount of energy emitted during product use will be just one of the areas the group will explore over the coming year.
Having the label already out in the market place is an essential part of this process, enabling us to test and build consumer understanding as the scheme evolves. It's a complex process and we don't have all the answers but we have industry support and an established plan to achieve a consistent, robust industry standard.
The fundamental rules of business are to understand your consumer and provide them with products they want. In a world where the consumer is king and carbon becomes the new currency, we believe the companies that move first and stake out their claim to the low-carbon product space have much to gain.n
Chief executive - Carbon Trust