September 21, 2004
After years campaigning to improve labelling standards on its products, and hoping other supplier would follow its lead, Co-operative Group has
given up on sluggish manufacturers and decided to go it alone.
It is imposing its own 'supra-labelling' over the top of manufacturer's labelling systems. By flagging high sugar and salt content to consumers through a simple traffic light scheme it aims to bypass the morass of partial, confusing or downright misleading labelling which exists at present.
It's a brave step and we applaud them.
This is great news for consumers and the first step towards retailers truly acting as consumer champions.
However, it is just the tip of the iceberg as far as consumer accountability is concerned.
To address the concerns of people like Friends of the Earth, organisations must adopt total value-chain transparency.
Instead of focusing on explaining on intrinsic product attributes (nutrition), retailers must start to consider extrinsic effects of a product: its effect on the environment; the labour practices of its suppliers, the biodegradability of its packaging...biodiversity labelling, energy labelling could all follow.
However, this point of purchase labelling is not actually necessary. All that is required is product transparency. Instead of intervening in education, get manufacturers to share their value-chain data directly with consumers. And then allow these consumers to demand the information they want.
This is no small task...as transparency pioneers ROMP have discovered. They have actually done it!
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