Reading the Economist the other day, I came across an article on putting carbon footprint number on packaging. Walkers did this for their Cheese’n’Onion crisps, and in doing so discovered something very interesting about their supply chain.
Walkers were buying their potatoes by gross weight, which meant that farmers kept them in humidified stores to ensure the potatoes didn’t dry (getting lighter as they did) and they got the best price from Walkers for their crop. Walkers were then frying the potatoes, eliminating most of the water to make crisps. The humidification process was costly in energy and equipment, and meant that Walkers spent 7% more on energy for fryers to eliminate the additional water, compared with potatoes that weren’t kept in a humidified environment.
The simple act of switching to buying potatoes by dry weight eliminated the costs of humidification and reduced the cost of frying. It also reduced the carbon footprint of a bag of crisps by 7%.
It makes me wonder how many other businesses could use carbon accounting to uncover inefficiency in their supply chains?
I have been a bit cynical about the benefits of carbon auditing as it can be an extremely complex business and consumers don’t seem to pay much attention to labelling, but this sort of result could help to change my mind…