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Value of sustainability to be studied as emissions cuts rewarded

By Jane Byrne , 25-Jun-2008
Last updated the 03-Sep-2008 at 12:37 GMT

As the UK's Carbon Trust initiates a scheme to reward companies for genuine carbon emission reduction, a new study will determine how influential a company's sustainability image is in terms of consumers' purchasing decisions.

The UK Carbon Trust said that its 'Carbon Trust Standard' certificate requires a company to measure, manage and reduce its carbon footprint, and unlike other schemes it demands that companies cut carbon across their own operations and supply chain as opposed to buying carbon credits from emission projects.

UK retailer, Morrisons, was one of 12 organisations awarded the Standard at its launch yesterday.

The retailer said that it has reduced its carbon emissions by 12.8 per cent over the past three years and introduced cleaner engines to 58 per cent of its fleet to date, with a target of extending that to 80 per cent by 2010.

According to the Carbon Trust, the scheme was informed by its research which shows many companies' climate change claims lack credibility for consumers and that they are more willing to purchase a product with the carbon award over another of similar price and quality.

"Achieving the Carbon Trust Standard will enable organisations to take advantage of the bottom line benefits that come from reducing carbon emissions. It will also help brands stand out from the crowd," said CEO of the Carbon Trust, Tom Delay.

Consumer trends
Meanwhile, US consumer trends analysts, the Hartman Group, said that it is conducting a new study, Sustainable Outlook 2008, to help bring into focus the complex picture of sustainability, how it relates to consumers' everyday lives and translates into purchases.

"Sustainability is a massive business opportunity. This is driven partly by the cultural shift of consumers wanting to align themselves with companies that share their values," said the Hartman Group.

However, the market analysts claim that companies face challenges in understanding what factors consumers base their sustainability purchases or behaviours on.

"There is still a gap between industry initiatives and consumer understanding. Our goal with this study is to provide [companies] with meaningful consumer conversations to close that gap," added the Group.

Study sponsors
The group said that it is seeking industry sponsors for its study, which will provide clients with recommendations for long-term green strategies.

"Sponsors receive results detailing the key drivers of sustainability for their specific product category. [The study] will get specific around notions of where price, packaging and messaging are heading," claims the analysts.

The group said that sponsorship is scheduled to close next month.

Green food chain
Callton Young, director of sustainability at the UK's Food and Drink Federation (FDF), claims that consumers expect businesses to be good corporate citizens, including in their environmental performance.

The FDF hosted an event in London in April, bringing together around 200 representatives from food and drink companies, academia and environmental organisations including the Carbon Trust, to examine how to develop a greener food supply chain.

"By hosting events such as this where companies can share knowledge and experience in areas such as energy efficiency, transport and waste reduction we hope to stimulate uptake of best practice throughout the food chain," said Young.

"We want companies to be inspired and take back to their places of work, ideas for making a real difference to the environment whether for direct application or future development," he added.

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