Private sector – driving sustainability through consumer choices

Posted on January 17, 2011 by


In the United States, Government’s interest in making policies and legislations for sustainability has shown declining magnitude from past few years. Part of the reason can be the global financial crisis which has hit the developed markets the hardest. However, a number of environmental disasters such as the oil spill, the floods raging across Brazil, Australia and Sri Lanka should drive the world attention towards climate change and our growing contribution to the same. In the backdrop of unavailability of concrete legislations, there is requirement of fresh climate change and sustainability strategies that will not depend on Government action.

Consumers are unaware or have very little information about the ecological impacts of the product they buy. Bringing transparency about the ecological impacts of products and supply chains helps in developing such an understanding and is expected to lead to consumer choices that are more environmentally friendly.  Similar to the transparency for the price of the product, ecological footprint information can also be made public. In this situation, manufacturer passes on ecological information associated with the product to the consumer and consumer thus becomes aware of the ecological footprint of the product they buy.

Action in this direction has already started across responsible organizations such as Wal-Mart. The retail giant has started developing a ‘sustainability index’. It is a credible rating of the ecological impacts of the product. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the standard approach adopted in measuring ecological footprints of the product. Wal-Mart will ensure that its suppliers and vendors do undertake such an assessment. Such activity will help the consumers in calculating impact of their product choices and in reducing it. Other companies are also interested in working for this cause.  Unilever and Google (Energy hungry servers) are bringing transparency into their operations, to find ways to make operations more sustainable.

 

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Posted in: Sustainability