18th April 2022
We naturally order the world around us. Through patterns and categories, we use these organizations to help enable our survival and make sense of everything. By quantifying our actions, we can have objective evidence, and through using insights, we can create a story that wasn’t available before based on that data. We’re constantly trying to measure everything, and so it’s no wonder why devices like Fitbits had exploded in popularity. They allow us to track what we do, allowing us to change and adjust our actions based on an objective guideline or target. People are terrible at judging their own activities, and so trackers provide an objective measure that we can use to improve.
The idea of an ecological footprint came about in the 1990’s, but the idea of the carbon footprint was actually popularized by a BP advertising campaign in 2005. Much in the same way calories started showing up on packaging in the 70’s and then on menus in the 2000’s, we are beginning to see the proliferation of eco-labeling on our products and services.
It can be difficult for people to think that they can make a difference in climate change. With it being such a large and complicated issue, 50% of young people feel powerless over climate change. Many feel like bystanders and that impactful action can only be done by large entities like nations and companies. We have long understood how industries have contributed, but rarely has it been narrowed down to consumer levels.
The quantification of sustainability has given consumers the tool they need to be able to contribute and take personal steps towards fixing the crisis. Tangible goals have long been the basis of enacting change, but until recently, individual impact was hard to put into numbers. As scientific research has progressed, improvements in tracking our carbon footprint have allowed companies to quantify the impact of each stage of their product journey. Restaurants like Panera are adding carbon footprint scores to their menu next to the nutritional information. This measurable impact can be relayed back to consumers, creating more urgency once individuals understand the consciences of their personal choices.
Awareness isn’t enough. Past attempts to rectify behavior such as carbon offsets were seldom used. Brands are now presenting their carbon trackers earlier in the decision-making process. By showing their ecological footprint as another option, consumers can better incorporate it into their choices.
Transparency and uniformity are two factors that hinder this movement. Brands working together like the EcoBeautyScore Consortium by the world’s top five beauty brands have standardized the methods for measuring and calculating environmental impact. They also are verified by independent parties to ensure accuracy and transparency. This also allows consumer a way to compare across brands. For many, especially younger people, climate change is their top concern about the future. These changes help prioritize their actions.