Labels: like nutrition facts, water and GHG facts will change consumer - and producer - behaviour

Updated: Nov 23, 2020



Nutrition facts, a regular part of consumers' experience with purchasing food, was at one point not atypical. Only becoming mandatory in 2007 on prepackaged food, it is only recently that people have become aware of nutrition facts necessity in being healthier.


It is now used to provide basic product information and health, safety, and nutrition information for the consumer. It also acts as a vehicle for food marketing, promotion, and advertising for the producer.


Nutrition facts are the epitomization of simple legislation that packs a punch. For Our Future believes it is critical to understand why so often legislation appears unnecessary before it is passed, but once it has been around for a few years, we understand how indispensable it is. We should have a forward-looking perspective so as not to fall into this trap.


Combatting Climate Change through Labelling

One of our simpler proposals, but still powerful, is for the federal government, like it did with nutrition facts, to legislate that all water and greenhouse gas (GHG) facts be labeled on packaged food products – and eventually all packaged products and goods.


Nutrition facts have enabled consumers to make choices about their health by providing them with more complete information. Knowing what goes into one’s body is now seen as a right. Of course, there is still unhealthly food throughout grocery stores, but consumers have taken food health more seriously and producers are forced to reduce certain fats and improve the health of their foods to gain an edge on their competition.


We propose to create the same environment around water and GHG facts. The amount of water and GHGs that go into our food can be enormous and terrible for the environment. Our country is now increasingly environmentally conscious, and with this, we should demand that as consumers we have complete information regarding our usage of water and GHGs.


Implementation

This is no radical idea and it does not tax the consumer. It simply gives them more information, which should be their right.


The process to create such labels would likely be easier than creating nutrition facts. Health Canada provides a “Guide to Developing Accurate Nutrient Values” to help producers meet the expectations of the legislation and reduce costs on their end. Water and GHG facts would likely be more straight forward because measuring these values are not nearly as complex as nutrition. To simplify it even more, GHGs could be reduced to CO2 equivalents to provide consumers with an apples-to-apples comparison between products.


Through legislation at the federal level and by assisting producers and providing a guide to calculating water and CO2 equivalent emissions, this would be a simple and straight forward transition.


Economics 101

Providing the consumer with complete information is simple economics. With this information, environmentally friendly consumers will begin buying the brands and foods that use less water and emit less CO2. In reaction, producers will improve their methods to reduce both of these. It is likely some foods may because more popular and others less as consumers learn about disproportionate water usage and CO emissions.


Even those who are not environmentalists should find it hard to argue against a simple non-invasive piece of legislation that provides them more information.


Call to Action

For our Future believes that this is the type of legislation that could find momentum at the grass-roots level. It is simple and straightforward. We can call on our elected officials and political parties to adopt this policy change. It would improve the environment and a government does need to take flak for taxing its citizens. Talk to your friends and families, ask them if they would get behind this. Call your Member of Parliament and make your voice heard.