Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Summary: session 3b - An introduction to sustainable consumption in Asia Pacific

A summary by Arlene de Vera of:
Session 3b: An introduction to sustainable consumption in Asia Pacific
Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 1:30 – 2:30 PM
Speaker: Richard Welford


Overall message: Asia has made huge advancements in sustainable production but has not made much progress to pursue sustainable consumption. 
In the Asia Pacific region, as elsewhere in the world, we have advanced so much in dealing with sustainable production. This is something that companies have started to act on. However, we have not progressed that much in terms of sustainable consumption. Richard cited a few examples of good corporate responsibility efforts by multinationals in the region:
1.       Marks and Spencer have launched a businesswide eco-plan which they call their Plan A. For them there is no plan B because the only option they’ve got is to go by Plan A which is the only sustainable way to progress.  They target the following:
-          They will not send waste to the landfill
-          Extend social responsibility sourcing
-          Help customer and employees live healthier lives

2.       Cathay Pacific is also very concerned with climate change
-          They ensure that when they fly, it is under optimum fuel efficiency, optimum weight, and not much energy is lost due to traffic control.
-          They were one of the first airlines that implemented a carbon offset project wherein passengers as a way to do carbon offset may donate some money to fund community projects. Only one percent of passengers, however, is willing to do their share.
Richard elaborated on the fact that corporate social responsibility is not about public relations. It goes beyond photo opportunities during launching of tree planting activities or turn-over of donations to community projects. It is about what companies do with their profits, how do they choose what and where to invest and how this impacts on the communities, how do this think about their social responsibility vis-à-vis the company bottomline.  It is as much about looking after the environment and how their operations impact on climate change, and integrating the concept in the supply chain by ensuring that they don’t do forced labor, they don’t rig consumers nor make unfair deals with their suppliers.
On sustainable consumption, Richard said that it remains a challenge that consumers and consumer organisations have eluded to pursue. We look at production as the principal contributing factor to climate change but failed to realize that bulk of energy consumption is not utilized during production of products and services but during the consumption phase. 
There is a need therefore for education and empowerment for consumers to know this and see how their consumption patterns and lifestyle make a difference in the whole gamut of sustainable consumption and production. But (at this point) they need companies to make this happen. Businesses can contribute by improving their marketing tools and integrating sustainable consumption in their messages and to promote sustainable consumption as a way of life.

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