FEATURE25 March 2021

Sustainable conversations: How to communicate carbon credentials

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Behavioural science Features Impact North America Sustainability

Toronto-headquartered packaged-meats producer Maple Leaf Foods used behavioural science to determine how to communicate carbon credentials to customers. By Darlene Macdonald and Amy Knowles.


Maple Leaf Foods declared its carbon neutrality in November 2019. Maple Leaf wanted to ensure Canadian consumers understood the importance of this step and to find out how best to convey its carbon-neutral message.

It designed a research programme with Research Strategy Group to understand how much Canadians knew about carbon neutrality and how the topic should be communicated to best engage consumer interest.

The initial research phase combined ethnography with behavioural science to explore people’s views and values regarding carbon neutrality. This involved 21 in-home ethnographies in four Canadian cities – Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Respondents were purchasers and consumers of pre-packaged meats and/or deli meats, and had a variety of views and awareness of sustainability and climate change.

These approaches allowed Maple Leaf to paint a picture of what carbon neutrality means to people and to understand the factors that may impact people’s purchase decisions for protein products.

The qualitative research uncovered seven cognitive biases that drive consumer understanding of ...