Carbon Footprinting at CPGs

At the Sustainability Stakeholder Engagement conference in New York today The Carbon Trust, a UK non-profit tasked with reducing carbon emissions, presented alongside PepsiCo International. The two have worked together to calculate the carbon footprint of dozens of Pepsico products.

Pepsico got involved in footprinting its products in the U.K. in respose to rising consumer and business interest in the subject. Not only were consumers becoming “obsessed” with the idea, according to David Walker, Director of Environmental Sustainability at Pepsico, but Tesco, a crucial retail customer, was taking it very seriously as well.

Walker and Scott Kaufman of The Carbon Trust presented a case study of their work on Walker’s Crisps (potato chips). Walker emphasized the unintended communications complications that can arise from such a process. They found 80 grams of embedded carbon, for example, in a 34.5 gram bag of Walker’s Crisps. How do you explain that to consumers, Walker mused.

Because my post on the cost of carbon footprinting has been so popular with my readers, I took the opportunity to ask Walker about their costs of calculating carbon footprints.  He cited a license fee that The Carbon Trust charges, which covers the costs to certify the footprint and confers the right to use the Carbon Trust logo.  That fee, he said, ranges from $10,000 to $30,000.

Beyond that, the process of calculating the footprint is fairly labor intensive. Walker said it took about 150 person-hours to do a footprint analysis, simply too costly to do for all of Pepsico’s 6000 SKUs (products).  This is a challenge that will affect any large consumer package good (CPG) manufacturer with a diverse product line. Both companies are seeking a more efficient and scalable process than the one they have now, which relies largely on spreadsheet models.

In recent months, probably a dozen of vendors, both ERP software companies as well as pure-play carbon footprinting software vendors, have stepped up to offer solutions to this problem, but there is a dearth of practical experience so far to attest to the value of those solutions.

If you have any case studies to share or other comments, please feel free.

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Filed under carbon, sustainability

4 responses to “Carbon Footprinting at CPGs

  1. David, yes this is an area we started examining in more detail — software vendors not only focusing on carbon and green house gas (GHG) software, but nearly all aspects of corporate sustainability efforts in recent years. We’ve started a grid on such vendors and I’m trying to figure out how best to get a pulse on them and their value for clients.

  2. David Walker


    I am impressed with the accuracy of your reporting.
    In fact, the industry is crying out for a fully developed tool to calculate product level and enterprise level carbon footprints.
    We are actively screening potential vendors, but have found that significant further development is required.
    I believe viable solutions are near at hand. The first to this solution will be valued significantly by business.



    • David Schatsky


      I appreciate your frank answer to my question at the conference and I know others did as well. As you are aware, this is a topic of keen interest right now and information sharing helps everyone.

      I would be very interested in hearing what you consider to be the most critical gaps in the functionality you have seen so far from the current crop of vendors. You are welcome to post your thoughts here or I would be happy to continue the dialog in e-mail at dschatsky at


      • David Walker

        David S.

        Would be happy to discuss what the key elements for potential CF software might be. Feel free to contact me by email.


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