Mandatory eco-labelling would change how we produce and purchase food, says Joseph Poore, Research Scientists at the University of Oxford, writing in the Guardian. In his article Poore uses the example of eco-labelling on appliances to underline how better informed consumers are able to make more environmentally friendly choices.
The mandatory labelling of appliances, which was introduced through a European directive in 1992, required an energy rating to be displayed on the item, and had a huge impact on the production and purchase of appliances across Europe.
Initially 75% of fridges and freezers were rated G to D (low efficiency), whilst today 98% are classed A++ or A+++.
Worldwide the energy efficiency of labelled appliances has increased three times faster than appliances without labels.
Some eco-labelling already exists, such as Rainforest Alliance and RSPO Sustainable Palm, but it’s voluntary and has had little impact on consumer habits. One of the reasons for this, Joseph Poore suggests, is; “shoppers are more likely to stop buying brands they perceive as unethical than to start buying those they perceive to be ethical.”
Poore also suggests that monitoring the environmental impacts of products is relatively inexpensive, as existing on-farm digital tools, such as Fieldprint and the Cool Farm Tool already exist; “Olam, one of the world’s largest agricultural companies, already tracks 160,000 growers through its Farmer Information System” and these monitoring tools can often find ways of making other efficiencies, which can be popular with farmers who need to make savings or cut emissions.
When choosing energy-efficient appliances, consumers rank environmental issues almost equally with future cost savings. In the long-term innovative practices and monitoring by farmers could lead to more efficiencies, greater savings and lower emissions, which would be a win-win for everyone.
From my conversations with people across the industry, we consumers are always eager to understand more about where our food comes from and how eco-friendly products are. If this information could be easily identifiable through a rated labelling system, this would seem an ideal way forward for the sustainable economy.
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