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Curbing Climate Change, One Potato Chip at a Time: PepsiCo’s Carbon Footprinting Techniques

| Friday October 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Since 2007, PepsiCo has been “doing the world a flavour” in calculating the carbon footprint of its Walkers Crisps, potato chips sold in the UK which carry the Carbon Reduction Label. PepsiCo recently revealed its footprint-calculating methodology, the implications of which could be significant for the mass food production sector and the development of sustainable industry.

According to an environmentalleader.com report, PepsiCo measures the Walkers Crisps’ carbon footprint at each stage of the supply chain, from the growing of raw materials to the shelving of the product and, lastly, the disposal of the Crisps’ packaging. The footprint measuring process entails mapping the supply chain, evaluating the energy consumed (and carbon produced as a result) at each stage, and adding up the carbon for a per-unit emissions calculation.

PepsiCo’s findings were revealing: raw materials accounted for 53 percent of Walkers Crisps’ emissions, manufacturing 34 percent, distribution 10 percent, and packaging disposal 3 percent. Since the majority of Walkers Crisps’ emissions occurred because of raw materials (factors outside the scope of PepsiCo’s operations), PepsiCo determined that it must work with raw materials suppliers and distributors to reduce the product’s carbon footprint.

Apparently, Pepsi’s footprint-calculating method was a success. The process enabled PepsiCo to reduce Walker Crisps’ carbon footprint by 7 percent between 2007 and 2009, thereby exceeding the corporation’s original CO2 goal by 4 percent and saving approximately 4,800 tons of CO2 emissions. At present, a standard bag of Walkers Crisps has 80 grams of associated emissions.

What impact could PepsiCo’s releasing its carbon footprint-tracking methodology have on the growth of sustainable industry? For one, PepsiCo Europe’s sustainability director Martyn Seal reportedly encouraged other firms to conduct carbon footprint analyses. “By footprinting our products and better understanding where the ‘hot spots’ in our supply chain are, we’ve been able to develop a targeted carbon reduction strategy,” Seal reportedly said. “Our experience has proven that introducing the Carbon Reduction Label, and making a public commitment to reduce carbon emissions, is a powerful means of galvanizing action throughout the business.” Moreover, approximately 52 percent of UK-based consumers polled said they were more likely to buy a product carrying the Carbon Reduction Label, Seal added. (Since adding the label to Walkers Crisps packaging, PepsiCo has also added it to 1-kg packages of Quaker Oats, Oatso Simple Original, and Oatso Simple Golden Syrup.)

Yet I wonder: how would labeling products’ carbon footprint go over with consumers in the US? Good question, given our apparent polarization over climate change and emissions regulations. Even if consumers “bought” the notion of Carbon Reduction Label-type packaging, would their resultant purchases have enough of an impact to mitigate other types of carbon blunders or the government’s (potential) failure to create an emissions-trimming policy?

What are your thoughts on the matter?


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  • Steve B

    That’s a real shame. You’ve been sucked in by the “carbon” climate change scam, despite all the evidence that C02 is not the major cause of climate change. Sad to say that I will not be buying Walkers crisps any longer.