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Carbon Neutral Shampoo?

April 3, 2011

Today was the first day that I’d seen this on a shampoo in Coles (Australian supermarket chain):

Australian Organics Carbon Neutral Shampoo

This product was certified by the Carbon Reduction Company under the No Co2 logo which means that you, the product purchaser can have some confidence that this shampoo has been created with the environment in mind.

So what does this mean exactly?

Well, the process of calculating a products greenhouse gas emissions is quite complex and there has been much discussion about who should take responsibility for what and at what point the calculations should be attributed to a particular product or company.   The decision taken by this certifying body was to reference a number of different accounting  protocols laid out by bodies such as the CSIRO,  the World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the International Standard 14064.1.

In a nutshell this means that the company and its processes are audited by an accredited  third-party to make sure that they are implementing business practices that reduce environmental impacts.  This could be through making products via a cold rather than a hot process, using locally sourced ingredients, using recycled packaging, encouraging employees to cycle or use public transport to get to work, work from home policies and much more.

Once the greenhouse gas emissions have been calculated, the company involved must offset that gap financially – a sort of carbon tax.  This money goes into the development of environmentally friendly schemes that will benefit everyone in the long-term – alternative energy sources, tree planting, education or other government, NGO and private enterprise endeavours.

If you want to find out what Australian Organics have been doing to earn their logo just take a look at their website

My opinion on this sort of certification is that it is a good thing as it enables the public to quickly identify brands that are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact.  However, just as it is with all other standards in order for this to be practical some compromises have to be made. These compromises cover the level of responsibility that the product maker/ company has for the whole supply chain including its suppliers and customers (a cradle to grave analysis).  In addition, the carbon neutrality is dependent on actions that happen by other parties after the event – after the product has been made, the emissions calculated and the fee paid.    While every effort is made to calculate the effectiveness of these greenhouse gas reducing measures they will sometimes fall short of their full potential – trees can die, technologies can become obsolete or impractical and economic measures can change.

This is an accounting practice that requires ethics and while I applaud those ethical accountants and believe that it is a good, no REALLY good place to start. I would take the information for what it is, a useful and potentially ‘green’ accounting tool,  NOT a new religion.

This shampoo retails for around $10 Aus for 250 ml which is not bad so well done Australian Organics.

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