Tesco is considering dropping carbon footprint labels from its products, after reports suggested the supermarket giant is finding the process too expensive and time-consuming.
The retailer became the most high-profile supporter of the Carbon Trust's label scheme in 2008 and has since calculated the carbon footprint of about 1,100 products. Out of these products, some 500, including potatoes, light bulbs, orange juice and laundry detergent, now carry labels detailing their emissions.
However, Helen Fleming, Tesco's climate change director, told The Grocer magazine that the supermarket is phasing out the labels as they require several months' work to calculate and other retailers have not adopted them, making the scheme less effective than had been originally hoped.
"We expected that other retailers would move quickly to do it as well, giving it critical mass, but that hasn't happened," she said. "We now need to make the right long-term decision and we're talking about what we do next."
A spokeswoman for Tesco told BusinessGreen the company is "proud" to have "more [products labelled] than any other UK company by sales volume", but said communicating the benefits to customer has proved problematic. She added that no decision has yet been made to discontinue to carbon labels.
"We are committed to carbon footprinting and effectively communicating this information to our customers to help them make greener choices," she said. "We know our customers care about product sustainability. But there is a real challenge to effectively explain this often complex message in a meaningful way, so we are currently reviewing a range of options."
If Tesco does leave the scheme, it will come as a major blow to the Carbon Trust, which has certified about 5,000 products across 90 brands, including household names such as LG, Dyson, Kingsmill and Walkers, since launching the labelling initiative in 2008. The annual sales value of goods carrying the label is some £3bn and it is in use in 19 countries around the world.
A spokesman for The Carbon Trust said the organisation would be disappointed to lose a such a "valued customer."
"We are clearly disappointed that Tesco has decided to phase out over time the use of the label on cost grounds," he said in a statement. "We know that Tesco is reviewing future options and we will be actively supporting them in that review.
"We are confident that our existing label customers and new customers will see the value of an internationally recognised carbon label backed by expert independent certification."
The news comes just weeks after the organisation announced that more than half the UK's retail market is signed up to its wider Carbon Trust Standard initiative, for which firms can qualify by measuring and reducing their overall emissions.
This article originally appeared on BusinessGreen.