The Carbon Footprint of Mangos
In early 2010 the NMB became concerned that the reputation of imported mangos was being negatively affected through an increased perception among U.S. consumers that mangos had a high carbon footprint.
Supporting this perception was a web-based carbon calculator that calculated the carbon footprint of a wide variety of food items. Planet Green, the Discovery Channel’s sustainability website, used the calculator to publish a story cautioning consumers that tropical fruits, and specifically mangos, had among the highest carbon footprints of all food products and that the carbon-conscious consumer should avoid them.
The NMB, with no data of its own on the carbon footprint of a typical, imported mango, was unable to contest these claims through a communication’s strategy that would be effective in mitigating the reputational damage that had occurred.
The NMB engaged Common Fields to analyze these published materials and to search for a possible rebuke to the claims. On reviewing the literature referenced in the documents, Common Fields was able to establish that the methodology employed to create the calculator: 1) used only secondary data; 2) used data that was not necessarily representative of imported mangos; 3) used assumptions that could not be supported. Furthermore, Common Fields discovered that the Planet Green story had erroneously reported the mango carbon footprint to be 10 times more than that calculated by the online calculator itself and had made its condemning conclusions based upon these flawed results.
- The NMB was able to notify the Discovery Corporation of the math error prompting the article to be removed immediately from the internet.
- The NMB made a strategic decision to mitigate future risks of misinformation by commissioning Common Fields to undertake an analysis of farming practices and community impacts, and to calculate the direct carbon footprint of a typical mango found in a retail outlet in the US.
- Common Fields designed self-reporting questionnaires for growers, packers and importers in Mexico (where over 60% of US mangos are sourced) and the US and validated results within 3 Mexican states. In addition a supply chain carbon footprint analysis was undertaken using primary data.
- These data would become important to both the NMB as a marketing vehicle for consumers and to individual parts of the supply chain, through the NMBs training program.
- The NMB is able to speak about farming practices to their consumers in a data supported manner.
- The NMB is able to design training programs for producers aimed at standardizing best practices in sustainable agriculture.
- The NMB now owns primary data of the carbon footprint of a representative mango sold in the US and can support their marketing communications with real data.