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Carbon Footprint

What is it and why does it matter?

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the agri-food sector, from farming and fishing, to food manufacturing, to retail, in order to limit the sector to its ‘fair share’ of total allowable emissions in a 1.5 - 2°C world.

Greenhouse gas (GHG)/carbon reduction is at the heart of sustainability. For sustainability leaders, cutting emissions is the key goal of sustainability action. While more and more trade customers are implementing science-based targets for carbon reduction, meaning more pressure on suppliers to reduce emissions and to share data alongside their sustainability targets. There is a real opportunity here for suppliers to stand out and establish longer-term partnerships with customers by providing that data. 

Currently, it isn’t primarily on the agenda for consumers. However, we can expect its importance to rise over the coming years. Carbon numbers will accelerate this process and offer a current opportunity for transparency around sustainability which the consumer is looking for. 


Of consumers globally say having a “low carbon footprint” influences their grocery shopping. We expect this to grow substantially in the coming years


Consumer-Facing Carbon Labelling

We can expect carbon to accelerate into the consumer sphere and become a critical consumer driver as companies attach goals to specific brands (e.g. Nestlé’s Kit Kat) and begin carbon labelling (e.g., Quorn)

Insights from 

Agenda Setters

Reducing GHG emissions from the food system is top of the agenda now and will remain so. The key themes are:

  • Net Zero, science-based targets cited as a key goal for food and drink businesses
  • Impacting the whole supply chain – scope 1, 2 & 3 will be part of the targeting setting, meaning suppliers are under scrutiny
  • Beef / Dairy, Energy / Transport cited as hot areas with high GHG impact meaning bigger pressure on beef and dairy producers 
  • Carbon reduction also seen as one of the drivers in the ‘low food miles’ trend 


As more pressure comes from their sustainability leads and organisational strategy, this will become a more important topic for customers, especially as they look for more suppliers that share their sustainability mindset.

Morrison’s in the UK has pledged to be the first supermarket completely supplied by net zero carbon farms by 2030, so expect similar moves by other retailers as they try to outdo each other on sustainability and look for suppliers that will help them. Currently seen as important to the business, and when choosing a supplier, so call it out in comms


Carbon is strongly associated with food sustainability by consumers, but it currently has a limited influence on consumer choice.  However, with the potential advent of on-pack carbon numbers, this is likely to become more important to consumers, as it will become more tangible. So, watch out for greater impact in coming years, or become the agenda setter by putting a carbon number on pack and help to educate shoppers on the environmental impact of their food and drink choices. ​

​It is most likely to be influential in markets where consumers are further ahead on their sustainability journey, e.g. Germany and Sweden. Keep this in mind when communicating sustainability in these markets. 

66%​ of trade buyers globally say

having the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions/carbon footprint is important when choosing a supplier


Insights & Implications
Insights & Implications

Review the headline insights from the Global Food Sustainability Outlook research.

Review the Insights & Implications