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Australia Tops Global Survey

17 June 2002 at 1:06 pm
Staff Reporter
A global survey has found slow progress from Governments on implementing the Sustainable Consumption Guidelines for Consumer Protection. However, Australia has topped the list of countries that have begun implementing the guidelines.

Staff Reporter | 17 June 2002 at 1:06 pm


Australia Tops Global Survey
17 June 2002 at 1:06 pm

A global survey has found slow progress from Governments on implementing the Sustainable Consumption Guidelines for Consumer Protection. However, Australia has topped the list of countries that have begun implementing the guidelines.

In a joint assessment by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Consumers International (CI), the survey found that over 38% of the Governments responding were not even aware of the Guidelines’ existence.

According to the survey, “Tracking Progress: Implementing Sustainable Consumption Policies”, of the 52 Governments that responded (150 Governments approved the Guidelines in 1999), only 56% promote research on sustainable consumption with the same percentage using relevant economic
instruments such as ‘green taxes’. It also notes only 54% measure the progress of their nations toward more sustainable consumption patterns.

UNEP’s Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer says when it comes to policy guidelines, Governments have made a start but clearly much more still needs to be done.

Toepfer says future population growth will be accompanied by an extraordinary growth in consumption. Meeting the growing consumption demands of all people while at the same time preserving Earth’s natural resources requires actions by individuals, business and, of course, Governments.

President of Consumers International (and Chief Executive of the Australian Consumers’ Association) Louise Sylvan says progress towards more ecologically sustainable economies is a high-level concern of consumers and Governments clearly need to lift their game.

Sylvan says disappointingly, some of the biggest resource-consuming countries did not respond to the survey and have not yet used the Guidelines to provide frameworks for achieving improvements.

She says strongly growing economies are important in helping to fulfil the first consumer right – satisfaction of basic needs – but achieving these goals now needs to be carried out in a responsible and sustainable way.

More encouragingly, the survey found that 80% of the Governments that responded believe the Guidelines are useful for policy making and the same number have initiated information campaigns on sustainable consumption in
their countries.

In analysing the survey, each responding country was given a score based on progress with implementing the Guidelines, from 0 (no implementation) to 10 (implementation of all parts of the Guidelines has started).

The scores are as follows:

10 Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Mexico,
Nicaragua, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Sweden;
9 China, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Vanuatu;
8 Canada, Hong Kong (China SAR), Kuwait, Seychelles and Slovak Republic;
7 Argentina, Chad, El Salvador, Fiji, Israel, Japan and Zimbabwe;
6 Kiribati, Mauritius, New Zealand, Senegal and Switzerland;
5 Austria, Chile, Croatia, Indonesia, Italy and Uruguay;
4 Bulgaria and Côte d’Ivoire;
3 Costa Rica and Haiti;
1 Burundi, Ecuador and Kenya; and
0 Cyprus and Zambia.

The survey found that two thirds of countries promote environmental product
testing and eco-labelling of products.

Other examples of successful projects to encourage sustainable consumption included:
* Australia’s “Green Games 2000 Initiative”, recycling programs on
aluminium cans, mobile phones, batteries, newsprint and waste oil,
Environment Industries Action Agenda and a tax on Sydney car park spaces;
* Brazil’s green labelling programs, product testing and consumer
* Chile’s campaigns to promote sustainable consumption in water, waste and
electricity services and the start of a cleaner production program;
* China’s Law on Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests, publicity and
education programs, environmental labelling, energy-saving campaigns for
household electrical appliances, certification of environmentally sound
products and 30% sales tax reduction for light vehicles;
* Germany’s “Green Dot” recycling scheme, “Blue Angel” ecolabelling,
eco-tax on mineral oil and green public procurement website;
* Japan’s laws on green procurement, recycling and waste management and
financial incentives for buying electric, natural gas, methanol and hybrid
* Mauritius’ awareness raising campaigns on use of solar systems, reuse of
paper and prudent use of plastic products, “Children as consumers” campaign
and the ‘e-government’ campaign, aimed at a decrease of use of paper in
government offices;
* Senegal’s information campaigns on saving energy, transportation in
Dakar, and a women’s group action to recycle plastic rubbish.

As a result of the findings of this survey, UNEP and Consumers
International are calling for a time-bound program of implementation (by
2004). Such a program, involving Governments and other stakeholders
(such as National Cleaner Production Centres), will include awareness
raising, further clarification of the Guidelines, upgrading of monitoring
efforts, expansion of sustainable consumption campaigns and support to
developing countries.

UNEP’s Klaus Toepfer says this pioneering survey shows that Governments, in developed, developing and transition economies, are interested and willing to implement policies outlined in the UN Guidelines.

He says a long-term capacity building program for sustainable consumption and production patterns, involving Governments, industry and consumers, would now be very timely.

The Sustainable Consumption Section of the UN Guidelines for Consumer
Protection gives a framework for Governments to use in formulating and
strengthening policies and legislation for more responsible consumption and
production patterns.

Its aim is to diminish environmental impacts, and provide a more equitable distribution of resources among the rich and poor. Separate chapters deal with research into consumer behaviour, “green” design of products and services, environmental testing, green procurement, as well as development of indicators and tools for measuring progress.

If you would like a copy of the complete report called Tracking Progress: Implementing Sustainable Consumption Polices just send us an e-mail to

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