In April 2022, the Danish Government announced it would begin funding the development of a climate label for food, making Denmark the first country to do so. The deployment of a “state controlled” label is intended to enforce transparency while minimizing consumer confusion over a multitude of different labels.

This is not Denmark’s first foray into environmental labelling. Last year, the Danish official dietary guidelines included carbon emissions for the first time, offering its citizens advice on how to have a climate-friendly diet. The announcement of climate labelling on food therefore appears to be a conscious directive to instil social responsibility at the heart of Danish consumption. A credible nationwide system will be hugely important to empower consumer decision-making on food and could help to inspire similar policies around the world. It is notable that Denmark’s actions come ahead of the European Union’s proposal for a Europe-wide food labelling framework at the end of 2022. As the European Commission forbids Denmark to demand all foods carry a climate label, voluntary labelling may suffer from limited visibility and misinterpretation.

According to GlobalData’s 2021 Q1 consumer survey, over a quarter (27%) of Danish consumers are often or always influenced by how ethical, environmentally friendly, or socially responsible a product is. This sentiment ranks lower than the global average of 42% but does suggest significant attention is paid to how a product is presented. When asked more specifically about carbon footprint labelling on product packaging, GlobalData’s Q3 2021 consumer survey reveals that while Denmark still falls below the global average (60%), but two in five (40%) of its population are influenced positively to some extent by such information. Garnering slightly higher interest, we can see that specific information regarding environmental practices, such as what the national climate label promises, are likely to be well received.

The Denmark Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries has allocated DKK9 million (£1 million) to devise a label that will be “unambiguous, simple and easy to understand” for consumers, according to the government. On the other hand, the growing abundance of packaging claims and certifications could present a potential pitfall to the policy’s implementation, as an abundance of labels may confuse consumers unfamiliar with eco-labelling. Furthermore, climate labelling will not be mandatory so its absence on some food packaging may give the impression that some brands are not as transparent as their competitors.

On the surface, eco-labelling supports the green values that are increasingly evident among European consumers. However, Danish retailers will need to balance this new initiative with other consumer desires, such as those for ethical certifications or minimalistic packaging. Excessive jargon may mislead consumers, so user-friendly visual designs will be vital to ensure climate action is well presented on food packaging.