By Neil Campbell, General Manager of Walkers Snack Foods Ltd, as presented at the Marketing Society Annual Conference.
We started working with the Carbon Trust in 2001 to investigate how we could improve our environmental performance. Since then we have managed to reduced our water intake by half and our energy by one third. It’s a significant achievement.
Eighteen months ago, we took this a step further by asking the Carbon Trust to examine the carbon footprint of our own products so we could identify where we might reduce our emissions.
They analysed the energy consumption in each key stage of our supply chain - from sowing potato seeds, to finally disposing the crisp packet. This examination gave us our calculated carbon footprint value for a standard packet of crisps, which is 75g.
We have decided to communicate our carbon footprint by printing the value on a label on our packs. We’re the first brand in the world to have a carbon label and we hope that others will follow. We were interested to see how consumers would respond but we also wanted to show our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.
One of the requirements from the Carbon Trust is that we’ve got to keep reducing our carbon footprint over a two year period, or we’ll lose the label.
Our commitment to reduce our carbon emissions has led to some transformational changes throughout the organisation. We are working on detailed projects across our supply chains, and are building a wind turbine at one factory. There is real momentum within Walkers generating many creative, interesting ideas from our employees.
I think consumers like our commitment to reduce carbon but they don’t necessarily understand the numbers. We carried out some quantitative research that showed that 80% of people would like to make environmental choices when shopping. We just hope that more companies will start thinking like this.
Is it difficult? Well, you have to be focused and systematic. The reductions we’ve achieved have been significant but there’s been a lot of focus within the organisation. Indeed, the most challenging part of this process has been the day-to-day effort in reducing our carbon emissions.
What advice would I offer to other brands keen to reduce their carbon footprint? First, set targets to achieve focus and be very serious about it. You need to ensure you’re committed from the top of the organisation. If you’re not serious and you view reducing your carbon footprint as a marketing tool then it won’t work.
Second, analyse the footprint of your own products to understand where the carbon is - this will help you target areas of your processes. For example, half of our carbon footprint comes from our agricultural process, before the potatoes even get to our factories.
And third, be prepared to be bold. For example, our decision to print a carbon label on our packs is brave. We don’t yet know if 75g is a lot or a little. We’ll only know when other companies start printing their footprints. But we believe that it’s the right thing to do because it will generate awareness of carbon as an issue.
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