Strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of consumer goods by influencing stakeholders

N. M. P. Bocken, J. M. Allwood

Consumer goods contribute to anthropogenic climate change across their product life cycles through carbon emissions arising from raw materials extraction, processing, logistics, retail and storage, through to consumer use and disposal. How can consumer goods manufacturers make stepwise reductions in their product life cycle carbon emissions by engaging with, and influencing their main stakeholders? A semi-structured interview approach was used: to identify strategies and actions, stakeholders in the consumer goods industry (suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and NGOs) were interviewed about carbon emissions reduction projects. Based on this, a summarising presentation was made, which was shared during a second round of interviews to validate and refine the results. The results demonstrate several opportunities that have not yet been exploited by companies. These include editing product choice in stores to remove products with higher carbon footprints, using marketing competences for environmental benefits, and bundling competences to create win–win–win business models. Governments and NGOs have important enabling roles to accelerate industry change. Although this work was initially developed to explore how companies can reduce life cycle carbon emissions of their products, these strategies and actions also give insights on how companies can influence and anticipate stakeholder actions in general.