Commentary

Consumers, flex your muscles for Earth’s sake

Consumers, flex your muscles for Earth’s sake
The haze in Singapore on Jun 17 2013. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong
Published: 4:01 AM, July 10, 2013
Updated: 4:05 AM, July 10, 2013
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The seriousness of the haze this year has heightened consumer awareness about the importance of sustainable business. Questions of culpability surround plantation owners, who supply major corporations with raw materials such as pulp and palm oil, often used in manufacturing paper, food, beverages and so on.

As consumers, we certainly have the capacity — and obligation — to demand that companies be responsible for ensuring that their entire supply chain is operated in a sustainable manner. To some extent, this has been demonstrated in recent campaigns by environmental groups against major palm oil players.

On Facebook and Twitter, hundreds of thousands of consumers supported a Greenpeace campaign in 2010 against Nestle, which was alleged to have used palm oil products that came from the destruction of rainforests, including in Indonesia. As a result, Nestle committed itself to a global no-deforestation target by 2020, as did other major brands such as Unilever.

Nestle’s partnership with its leading palm oil supplier, Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources, and non-government organisation The Forest Trust is beginning to look like an example of how sustainability collaboration can dramatically change operating practices and business models.

We, as consumers, can accelerate progress by urging other major brands to take a similar approach.

A GLOBAL MOVEMENT

Environmentally-friendly consumer behaviour is growing and is becoming a global movement.

According to Nielsen’s 2011 Global Survey of more than 25,000 respondents in 51 countries, 77 per cent rated air pollution as the top concern — showing that such environmental issues are taking a higher priority in the minds of consumers.

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