Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Uchita de Zoysa Speaks at the Private Food Governance Symposium in Munster


Sessions on Private Food Governance and Farmers’ Well-Being

23-25th April 2008, Münster University, Germany

Wellbeing as a CSR Strategy for corporate Sustainability in Private Food Governance
(with a case study on diary industry in Sri Lanka)
by Uchita de Zoysa

The UN Secretary General has officially declared that the world now is facing a global food crisis. Hunger is on the rise and expect more global unrest. In this context the role private food governance will need to be looked at closely.
• In countries like Sri Lanka agriculture has been systematically down graded by the multilateral donor lead efforts for privatization, globalization and global resource governance agenda’s – making us from agricultural and food self-sufficient countries to dependent service providing nations.
• In this context multinational companies dominate the food governance as well as the consumer lifestyles in developing countries – even the SME’s who are the largest contributors to these national as well as global economies are being driven out as well.
• Sustainability has become a growing topic within multinational industry and business (but with a clear focus on corporate sustainability)
• Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has come into much focus as a tool claimed as “giving back to the society” – but so little given for a lot more corporate whitewashing and image building.
• In this sense “Wellbeing” of all stakeholders in the private food governance becomes a key strategy to be adopted in CSR programmes – creating greater opportunities for stakeholder determinations and benefit sharing in private food governance.

The leading diary market shareholder in Sri Lanka (SL) assigned us to conduct their first ever CSR strategy planning. This is the first time that a Sri Lankan organization had been commissioned to conduct such an in-depth and scientific study on CSR, specially in the consumer products based industry.
• The company had little knowledge and appreciation on CSR and sustainability issues - six months of negotiation was made for a four month comprehensive research and planning project on CSR (18hrs/p/d x 7d/p/w x 4 months) plus 3 months launching later.
• Over two thousand five hundred (2500) milk farmers and their families supply milk – which accounts to just a mere 5% of the companies turnover.
• International company that imports and markets milk powder as the main diary consumption item in SL – which is an indication that we are a heavily dependent nation on diary (and powdered milk consuming is a low end wellbeing indicator)

As the planning agency we established the following criteria for the project.
· The CSR Strategy is designed to achieve corporate sustainability the company.
· It also can provide a new approach to establishing dairy leadership acceptance amongst stakeholders.
· CSR should not be considered as a replacement of;
o commitment to ethical corporate behavior
o commitment to other stakeholders (consumers, farmers, suppliers, employees, government, interest groups, etc)
o responsibilities towards protecting the environment.
o covering-up any corporate deficiencies
o whitewashing image.
· Investment in CSR should be considered as an investment for;
o Enabling corporate sustainability
o Enhancing dairy leadership acceptance by stakeholders
o Creating positive business operational environment
o Displaying true commitment to wellbeing of the community and nation that enables profit for the company.
o Generating positive publicity and perception

Project Summary
• Extensive research was conducted through direct contact with farmers at homes, cattle sheds, milk collection centers and community gatherings. These contacts have been recorded on video as well to provide greater testimony to the reader on the status and opinions stated.
• The interviews with farmers and their families were conducted in detail to ascertain their aspirations and needs.
• Interviews with suppliers at the milk collection centers to ascertain the overall conditions of milk farming in the districts in focus and requirements for milk farmer community development.
• Recommendations are based on the information gathered from milk farmers, families, milk suppliers and milk procurement staff.

Critical Observations
• Research revealed that the company has not provided any support to improve the quality of life of farmers and their families who supply milk to the company.
• The general status of the milk farmer community indicates that the process of milk procurement is based on minimum payment to the producer and maximum profit margin making by selling to the consumer. This applies to all dairy companies operating in the country.
• Milk farmers were clearly unhappy about the lack of any benefits provided, as they exclusively supply to the company. They believe that milk farmers are exploited and that the company does not care for their wellbeing.
• The most critical of the non supportive role of the company as a corporate were the suppliers managing the district milk collection and supply centres. They believe that the company lacks caring for the farmer community. This is due to lack of understanding of the ground realities. They also they complain of a lack of a grievance hearing system.
• The 2500 plus farmers that is categorized as “the company Farmers” do not seem to be treated as part of the the company family. The livelihood levels of a majority of these farmer families are at a sorrowful low level for the company to proudly display as “the company Farmers”.
• the company as a corporate with high ethics, seem to have failed in providing a fair deal to the farmer community. the company clearly has fallen short of their responsibility towards creating better quality of life of the company farmers and their families.

Needs Identification
Key farmer community needs include the following;
· Cattle-shed development assistance
· Fodder/Grass land development
· Quality cows breeding and distribution project
· Cattle nutrition and veterinary mobile units
· Transport facilities
· Health clinics for farmer families
· Schools development for farmer children
· Veterinary and dairy education scholarships to farmer families
· Micro credit for livelihood and dairy development

Farmer Levels Identification
• Level 01 farmers: Low motivation, subsistence farmers
– Status: 1-2 cows, No or small plots of land available for grass, Low income households
– Recommendations: Needs welfare and capacity building support for livelihood and fresh start in milk farming. Priority is to stop dropping-out of industry and to firmly re-establish them in the level 01 category. A percentage of this category can be guided to level 02.

• Level 02 farmers: Subsistence farmers
– Status: 3-4 cows, Small to medium sized plots of land (up to 1acres), Low income households
– Recommendations: Needs welfare and infrastructure development support to enable healthy income and better quality of life. Harnessing the maximum capacity through capacity building and encouragement within the exiting category is the priority. A percentage of this category can be guided to level 03.

• Level 03 farmers: Self-motivated entrepreneurial farmers
– Status: 5-12 cows, Medium sized plots of land (1-4 acres), Low to middle income household
– Recommendations: Needs development support to maximize the available infrastructure and self-motivation. Guiding them to the maximum capacity within the category should be the focus, as a majority may have obstacles to beyond level growth potential (eg; limited land).

• Level 04 farmers: Potential SME model farm owners
– Status: 12+ cows, Medium sized plots of land (5+ acres), Middle income households
– Recommendations: Needs financial and technical assistance to move from entrepreneurial farming to professional farm owner status. This would be an ideal small milk farm model to be developed with minimum cost and commitment of the company. These model farms could provide high PR value to corporate image of the company.

Stakeholder Identification
• Main stakeholders of project planning and implementation will include the following
– the company milk farmers and families
– the company Milk farmer associations and cooperatives
– the company milk collection center suppliers
– District authorities and organizations related general administration, dairy development, poverty alleviation, health, education, etc.
– National authorities and organizations related general administration, dairy development, poverty alleviation, health, education, etc.
– the company milk procurement and collection staff
– the company CSR core group, corporate affairs
– the company Wellbeing Foundation

• Implementation of the CSR programme has been delayed due to issues of milk pricing and management changes etc.
• Changing corporate culture to more understanding, compassionate, giving and responsive to true needs of stakeholder and issues is a painfully slow, frustrating process.
• The process requires lot of integrity and patience both maintained along with knowing when to push as well.
• CSR is a concept with loose definitions and too much flexibility for misinterpretation.
• We adopt corporate sustainability planning which essentially places stakeholder wellbeing at the centre and implement action programmes using various CSR projects.
• This way we try to confront the ‘trickle down” attempts and show them win-win solutions within a corporate sustainability path (eg: financial profitability in lifecycle management, cleaner production, resource efficiency etc. as well as potential PR benefits with key stakeholders resulting in overall corporate profitability.
• The key to CSR success is if stakeholder wellbeing is fundamentally established in the progrmme and also if corporate sustainability is aligned with national to global sustainability paths.
• While the CSR strategy and programme planning is vital, implementation still needs to go through continuous monitoring, improvement, vigilance on the impacts on the beneficiaries – as “giving back” by business still has to be proven by-and –large where profitability exceeds any morals or values in corporate governance.
• This stands true to private food governance as well.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Global Sustainability Solutions: Partnerships for a Better World

Global Sustainability Solutions is an evolving global partnership for sustainable solutions that integrates commercial and non-commercial organizations to bring out the collective strength to achieve a better and Sustainable World. It’s a multi-disciplinary partnership including business organizations, non-governmental organizations, research organizations, media agencies and other organizations that can strengthen the movement to create a better world. Our experience in sustainabilty and social responsibility programmes extends from the days of the Earth Summit (UNCED 1992). The team is lead by Uchita de Zoysa, an internationally known environmentalist, sustainable development expert, civil society leader and social entrepreneur. The different activities brings together a network of expertise in organizations and individuals that excel in CSR, PR, communications, marketing, engineering, law, education, health, policy, governance, politics, etc. Our partners in delivering environmental & social responsibility projects range from United Nations Agencies, International & Bilateral Organizations, Multinational – National & Local Business, Industries, Civil Society Groups, and also Governments. Our aim is a better world and our strategies are based on creating sustainable futures for all. Our strength lies in our expertise, experience, networking, contacts, innovation, creativity and commitment. Most importantly our compassion for society, passion for social responsibility, and commitment to environmental, economic & social - sustainable development – is our primary motivator. Our way of achieving CSR is through building strategic partnerships for better and sustainable futures.

Uchita de Zoysa Speaks at B4E Summit

B4E-Business for the Environment Global Summit 2008 was held in Singapore from 22-23 April 2008 with the theme "Business and Markets in a Climate of Change". With a focus on Resource Efficiency and Renewable Energies, this second B4E brought together senior executives from leading global companies, governments, international organisations and NGOs to explore and share solutions for a greener future. The summit was jointly hosted with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Global Compact and was frames as the most important event on business and the environment in 2008.

Mr. Uchita de Zoysa of CED was invited to speak at the plenary forum, and was amongst other global speakers such as Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (President of the Republic of Maldives), H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco, Achim Steiner, Executive Director (UN Environment Programme and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations) Georg Kell (Executive Director, UN Global Compact), Arab Hoballah (Chief, Sustainable Consumption and Production, UNEP DTIE), Aron Cramer (President and CEO, Business for Social Responsibility), Andrei Marcu (Senior Managing Director, World Business Council for Sustainable Development), Wolfgang Gregor (Chief Sustainability Officer, OSRAM), Neil Hawkins (Vice President, Sustainability, The Dow Chemical Company), Olivier Luneau (Senior Vice President Group Sustainable Development, Lafarge), Wolfgang Bloch (Vice President, Environmental Affairs, Siemens AG), Jouko Virta (President of Global Fiber Supply, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd), David Williams (CEO, Impact DTG), Habiba Al Marashi (Chairperson, Emirates Environmental Group), Sheri Liao (Advisor, Global Village of Beijing), Isabelle Louis (Director Asia & Pacific, WWF International), etc.

Singapore based newspaper "The Nation" qouted ...."Uchita de Zoysa, director of the Sri Lanka Centre for Environment could not get business leaders to respond when asked how they will address the pressing need for the developed world in particular to reduce consumption to cut carbon emissions. "Are companies ready to handle the consequences if consumers embrace that notion?" Zoysa asked." Following is a sumary of his presentation;

Environmental Partnerships:
Leverage Corporate and NGO Capabilities
by Uchita de Zoysa, Executive Director - Centre for Environment & Development)

Opportunities for Partnerships
We are here together because the changing climate is presenting new business and market opportunities.
• Global warming needs not just mitigation but adaptation. Therefore more public awareness and participation is a challenge.
• Diminishing natural resources and emerging power over resource ownership by southern communities challenges us for new ways of consumption and resource efficiency.
• Continued poverty and increasing food crisis with growing demand for eradication as a priority agenda presents more opportunities for creating better quality of life.
• Increased consumption societies, urbanization and market leaderships in Asia will place more pressure on global sustainability.

Barriers for Partnerships
We need a new generation public-private-civil partnerships.
• Business - CSR is becoming dangerously used as a tool for corporate-whitewashing, resulting in threatening true social service and social entrepreneurship.
• Funds/sponsorships becoming a bottom-line for public-private partnerships, where triple bottom-lines are compromised.
• Global diplomacy is becoming weaker and sustainability is a continuously delayed process – 50 years of sustainability talk leaves us with voluntary commitments in the UN Marrakech Process on SCP?
• Partnerships are made in comfort zones – friends and clubs and the like minded – excluded are the people!
• Finally, NGOs need to come-out of their own “protective zones” and look forward as to the need of the people and world. Not to just the ideals and funded projects.

Some Ideas for Partnerships
The need is inclusive partnerships, and with true stakeholder determinations.
• Sustainable enterprise (sustainable production to Sustainable consumption based markets)
• Sustainable credit and banking (from micro credit to alleviate poverty to credit and banking for a sustainable world)
• CSR and corporate sustainability is based not only on reporting, transparency and citizenship, but on going beyond market interests and towards a sustainable world and with true partnerships with people and their representatives of the world.
• We are seeking partnerships for a better world that mandates Equity, Wellbeing & Happiness for all!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

EIB invites Uchita de Zoysa to Speak at their CSO Forum in Lisbon

The European Investment Bank (EIB) met NGOs and other civil society organisations (CSOs) on 9 November in Lisbon to discuss the way it assesses the economic and social impact of projects that are considered for Bank funding ( The Workshop took place in the framework of the European Union’s Development Days conference and is part of the Bank’s ongoing dialogue with civil society, which includes annual Spring and Autumn Workshops with CSOs on topics of common interest. Specialist Bank officials gave a number of short presentations setting out the general background to ESIAF, how it was developed and how it currently works.
Of the three invited speakers, Uchita de Zoysa of the Centre for Environment and Development in Sri Lanka gave a view from the developing world. He argued that even though the Bank's Bank’s approach in project assement has the numerous indicators for Sustainable Development, it seems to be shy in openly adopting and pronouncing Sustainable Development as a target. “The EIB can play a critical role in setting the sustainable development dialogue within the financial sector and its borrowers,” he said. He argued that the challenge for EIB should not be to fund projects of ecomnomic growth in, but to ensure that all projects and investments result in sustainable development.
Uchita raised the questions "can economic growth ensure poverty eradication?" and "is accelerated economic growth the answer to achieving MDGs?" He then said; "poverty reduction is no longer a proposition and it has to be "ERADICATION". Economic growth for poverty eradication has become a myth. The concerntration should be to promote sufficiency economies for "WELLBIENG & HAPPINESS" for all!".
The presentations spurred broader discussion among EIB and CSO participants on a range of topics related to the Bank’s developmental role in many of its operations outside the EU and as a result of the Workshop, operational follow-up is planned between the Bank’s operational staff and the external specialists. Vice-President de Fontaine Vive welcomed the open and constructive debate and hoped this could be continued with a wider spectrum of CSOs.
The European Investment Bank was created by the Treaty of Rome in 1958 as the long-term lending bank of the European Union. The task of the Bank is to contribute towards the integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion of the EU Member States.


“Global Peoples Dialogue on Sustainable Lifestyles” starts in Sweden!

- Now Check Out "" -

Uchita de Zoysa of the Centre for Environment ad Development commenced the “Global Peoples' Dialogue on Lifestyles” by conducting a series of dialogues in Malmo, Gothenburg and Stockholm from 18-26th October 2007. The dialogues were organized by the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) and D&D Strategic Solutions of Sri Lanka along with Swedish counterparts TERMA, VUJJ and Dialogue partners included designers, innovators, producers, traders, communicators, philosophers, educators and students involved in promoting various sustainable lifestyles products, services and processes.
Each Dialogue forum included a key note presentation by Uchita de Zoysa, followed by another 2-3 presentations from key sustainability lifestyles personalities from the three Swedish cities. Each dialogue then had an intensive dialogue with a circular seating arrangement in which all participants shared their hearts, minds and experiences along with visionary solutions for evolving sustainable lifestyles across the world. The dialogues revolved around subjects such as sustainable consumption, production and lifestyle; the role of design in emerging sustainable markets; creating quality lifestyles for sustainable communities; CSR and corporate sustainability; forming of partnerships between European and Asian companies.
The dialogues will now be continued to other countries, while the evolving partnerships will produce and showcase a host of new products, services and processes for sustainable lifestyles!

Friday, 28 September 2007

"How to create synergies with the help of SoP Program between key actors"

Following is a summary of the presentation on “How to create synergies with the help of SoP Program between key actors: The Marrakech Process on Sustainable Consumption & Production” by Uchita de Zoysa (5th September 2007, Sustainability of the Planet Conference, Stockholm, Sweden):

UN Marrakech Process which is a response to the 2002 WSSD in Johannesburg and attempts to formulate a 10 year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) has been a slow to draw attention of global governments and stakeholders equally, Uchita de Zoysa explained. New additions of such as the cooperation dialogue and stakeholder panel discussion provides some hope for a greater dialogue within the process. He expressed the view that there is criticism that the Marrakech Process has limited itself to a smaller group of expert consultations leaving out a majority of governments and their stakeholders as much as the key UN processes that deals with issues directly relevant to SCP such as poverty eradication, climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation , etc.

Uchita presented the idea of a large and dynamic networking model with an emphasis on a Global Stakeholder Dialogue on SCP. The stakeholder model proposes to create an open/participatory mechanism for the Marrakech Process to dialogue and promote the true SCP objectives such as ensuring wellbeing of all, promoting happiness, eradicating poverty, enabling sufficiency economies, promoting green consumption, eco innovation, green procurement and sustainable markets, etc..

In the Marrakech process, the SoP could choose between the roles of being a parallel program; being part of the core of the Stakeholder Dialogue; and acting as a player from the outside. Uchita said he would prefer SoP to join the Global Stakeholder Dialogue immediately. Uchita believes that the SoP can play a critical role as a stakeholder and investor broker within the global stakeholder forum on SCP in its efforts toward unifying global sustainability efforts. In Uchita’s opinion SoP should take on an aggressive approach and place itself in the centre of the sustainability movements. People should be invited – not of convenience or friendships, but open to all who have something to contribute critically. The programmes do not have to be competitive, but can become effectively complimentary to each other in a wholistic programme.

Uchita suggested that SoP has the capacity to become a strong player on a global stakeholder dialogue, but that there must be a stop in discussing only within comfort groups. The globe is too small to remain within a single constituency and we all must meet together and dialogue for a better world, Uchita emphasized, adding that 80% of the people in the world are not represented, yet their future is being decided for them by a smaller group with power and money. He also underlined the fact that there are innovators with great ideas who do not get in touch with those with people with decades of experience of how to realise those great ideas practically, because of a lack of a processes of collective stakeholder dialogue.

Uchita speaks at the "Sustainability of the Planet Conference" in Stockholm

Uchita de Zoysa of D&D & CED was invited to speak to a group of 108 experts from 36 different countries gathered in Stockholm, Sweden from 3-7th September 2007 to take part in the Sustainability of the Planet Program Conference 2007. The Conference is part of the Sustainability of the Planet Program’s role in acting as a catalyst, a project assessor, and a broker between projects and financiers. The aims are to mobilize global supply chain for a sustainable planet through the powerful objectives, namely to fight climate change and prevent pollution by efficient use of resources. This will be achieved by identifying and encouraging entreprenuers to develop projects for merging sustainable development with the operation of SMEs, and in assisting the projects to find funding.

The first day of the conference was dedicated to discussions on ways to Share calculated risks in the Sustainability Projects between entrepreneurs, governments, industry, financial institutions and organisations working with sustainability issues. The second day explored sustainability projects by workshops dealing with questions related to strategic global resources depletion prevention, sustainability business case, compulsory and voluntary standards, as well as needed changes in institutional structures and governance processes. The third and final day contain different presentations on financial opportunities. Sustainability projects will also be exposed and followed by discussions between project leaders and potential funders like foundations, investors, banks and public institutions.

Answering the question of “What are the Opportunities and obstacles being involved in sustainability projects?” Uchita proposed two scenarios for opportunities;

Fist scenario for opportunities are;
1. Global warming leads to climate change mitigation projects
2. More than half of humanity remaining on poverty conditions openness projects for poverty eradication
3. Deletion of natural resources and ecosystems presets project opportunities for biodiversity conservation
4. Scarcity of clean water brings opportunities to generate clean water supply projects
5. Desertification and non-productive agricultural land demand projects to develop new technologies and methods for food supply.

Second scenario for opportunities can be from a different view;
1. Resource scarcity calls for alternative sources such as renewable energy development projects
2. Emergence of strict legislation and regulations call for more corporate social responsibility projects
3. Imbalanced global opportunities and economies calls for different negotiations and power leverages such as in carbon emissions trading.

Uchita presented the following obstacles to being involved in sustainability projects;
1. Lack of a global agreement on how to produce and consume sustainably
2. Back tracking of the past forty years of global environmental agreements (eg: Agenda 21, Kyoto protocol, etc.)
3. Issue of corporate accountability being marginalized for corporate social responsibility as a white washing and image building exercise.
4. Global sustainability interests are different between the establishment and the people/peoples representatives
5. Good ideas often gets lost in lack of capacity, funds and support within the existing model of donor/investment interest and criteria
6. Lack of collective effort dilutes the “BIG” impact (eg; all the small projects needs to be linked together for a collective impact)

Uchita ended by proposing set of visionary challenges for sustainability projects;
1. Achieving quality of life and happiness for all
2. Reducing global ecological footprint
3. Poverty eradication (not merely halving poverty but eliminating it)
4. Creating sufficiency economies
5. Providing equal opportunities for sustainable consumption and production
6. Ensuring global commitments by government and other stakeholders are honoured.

Uchita completely rejected the notion that stakeholder interest is low in contributing towards sustainability projects . In fact he argued that they are marginalized and not provided adequate opportunity for engagement in the global sustainability programmes. He pointed out that stakeholder participation has been continuously used by governments and international organizations to justify participatory process to funders and the constituencies, but in reality they only bring in organizations and individuals from stakeholders who they can build convenient and comfort zone partnerships. Uchita showed examples from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit days when he was steering committee member of he first Global Forum which resulted in the “Alternative Treaties on Environment and Development”. He proposed the creation of a dynamic stakeholder networking model called the “Global Stakeholder Dialogue” particularly for the Marrakech process on sustainable consumption and production. He stated that linier discussions amongst a small group in the world is totally unacceptable and fruitless, and if any process wishes to achieve sustainability of the planet they should essentially evolve on an equitable stakeholder participatory mechanism.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Uchita de Zoysa holds Meetings with P&G Global Sustainability Programme

Mr. Uchita de Zoysa of D&D Strategic Solutions and Centre for Environment and Development was invited by Prof. Dr. Marina Franke - Manager Global Sustainability of Procter & Gamble Service GmbH to visit their main office in Sulzbacher Strasse 40, D - 65823 Schwalbach am Taunus, Germany recently. The meetings were a planned as a step towards establishing stronger stakeholder relations for global sustainability programmes.

The three day discussions commenced with P&G External Relations team which handles Corporate Social Responsibility, Public Relations and Global Sustainability. It was revealed that P&G supports the UN Millennium Development Goals of safe drinking water and sanitation, reductions in child and mother mortality and morbidity, and quality of life for slum dwellers and women and girls in the developing world. Meetings were also held with P&G researchers gathered from across the world for their sustainability innovations exhibition. The P&G researchers explained their contributions to society and the environment through new innovations such as PUR for purification of drinking water for developing countries, eco-friendly diapers that considers the full life-cycle effect, and tide cold water washing powder for washing machines that helps reduce energy consumption, amongst several other sustainable innovations.

One of the main discussions was on establishing a “Global Stakeholder Dialogue on Sustainable Consumption and Production”. The preliminary model for stakeholder networking that was formulated by Uchita was highly commended by Prof. Franke and extended her fullest support to generate global industry sector support. It was concluded to pursue formulating a series of case studies on best practices to promote sustainable consumption and production. Uchita will soon release the book “Asian Case Studies on Sustainable Consumption” which is part of the “Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption” released recently in Stockholm. Prof. Franke also presented Uchita with her book on “Integrated Waste Management: a Life Cycle Inventory”.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

D&D formulates and launches Fonterra’s Sustainability Plan & CSR Strategy

Commissioned by Fonterra Brands Lanka Ltd. (FBL) in 2006, D&D Strategic Solutions (Private) Limited formulated and presented the FBL Sustainability Plan and CSR Strategy themed “Ensuring Wellbeing for Sustainability”. In May 2007 D&D was once again commissioned by FBL to launch the CSR Strategy with selected key goals in mind. The project was lead by sustainability and CSR expert Mr. Uchita de Zoysa and comprised of a high profile team of experts.

Fonterra is Sri Lanka’s leading dairy company with flagship brands such as Anchor, Raththi, Newdale and Anelene. Fonterra is the world's leading dairy exporter and is currently ranked sixth by turnover among the world's dairy companies. Fonterra Co-operative Group was formed in 2001 and has become the world’s largest dairy exporter with over 11,000 shareholders. The company export 95 per cent of their New Zealand-made dairy products to customers and consumers in more than 140 countries. Fonterra’s milk tankers collect 14 billion litres of milk every year. That’s enough to give every person in the world two glasses of milk.

Sustainability is at the heart of Fonterra - being a sustainable co-operative is the Foundation Theme in the strategy. This recognises the need to continue building a business that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

It was a rewarding experience to have designed FBL’s corporate sustainability plan and CSR strategy through an in-depth survey and a systematic analysis. To our knowledge, this is the first time that a Sri Lankan organization had been commissioned to conduct such an in-depth and scientific study on CSR, especially in the consumer products based industry.

“Ensuring Wellbeing for Sustainability” is a comprehensive proposal custom designed to guide FBL towards corporate sustainability. It also provides pathways towards developing a sustainable dairy industry in Sri Lanka. As the leader in Sri Lankan dairy, FBL can now confidently guide the destination of Sri Lanka’s dairy sector.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

NGO Presentation to 3rd International Expert Meeting on SCP, 26-29 June, Stockholm, Sweden

Mr. Uchita de Zoysa of CED was unanimously elected to represent the NGO Forum at the Stakeholder Forum at the 3rd International Expert Meeting on SCP, 26-29 June, Stockholm, Sweden. The representative from NGOs, Mr. Uchita de Zoysa, stated that the key to success in the Marrakech Process is engagement of all stakeholders and transparency of the process. He also stated that accountability and assessing tangible results are key to continued success. He listed some recommendations as desirable outcomes of the meeting including:
1. To identify specific programs of the 10 year framework clearly defining and identify targets, timetables, strategies and action needed to reverse worsening social and ecological trends by 2021.
2. To organize a comprehensive multi-stakeholder review of efforts, success and failure to implement the Agenda 21 objectives and action commitments on production and consumption agreed to in 1992 by governments.
3. To identify and analysis the national barriers to develop national SCP strategies by engaging all governments effectively to follow-up on the recommendation of WSSDs JPOI
4. To develop a clear set of operational guidelines ensuring civil society and other stakeholder participation and public transparency in Marrakech Task Forces and to establish a broader dialogue on SCP with greater outreach towards all nations and stakeholders.
5. To establish a broader global stakeholder dialogue on sustainable production and consumption with greater outreach.
6. To establish a process to define corporate accountability in contrast to corporate responsibility.

Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption - Launched in Stockholm!

The Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption, written by Uchita de Zoysa, was recently launched at the 3rd International Expert Meeting on Sustainable Consumption and Production held in Stockholm, Sweden. The Asian Review on SC is an out come of a large dialogue that was initiated by the Centre for Environment and Development when it conducted the Asian Review on SC in 2004. Over hundred organisations in Asia were represented by some of the most knowledgeable thinkers, researchers, activists and administrators on sustainability in the region. This report provides a preliminary framework towards promoting sustainable consumption in Asia where half of the global humanity resides. Interested organizations and individuals are invited to request for copies of the report by sending an email to “ ” and parts of the report can be found at “ ”.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Corporate Social Rsponsibility

Man’ Mission Interview of Mr. Uchita de Zoysa on CSR (April-June 2007 Issue)

Uchita de Zoysa is Managing Director of D&D Strategic Solutions (Private) Limited, a CSR and cause based strategic communications agency. Prior to establishing D&D, he was Executive Director of Blitz Advertising and Head of Roland PR, and has two decades of experience working with large companies, governments and international agencies. Uchita commenced his professional life in 1987 as an investigative environmental journalist. In 1991 he created and lead a large environment & development NGO coalition in Sri Lanka and edited the countries first Citizens’ Report on Environment & Development and presented it to the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Uchita was a member of the International NGO Steering Committee of the Earth Summit which organized the Global Forum. In 2004 he was appointed UNEP as head of the Asian programme, and conducted a regional review in 11 Asian countries for a large project called “Sustainable Consumption Asia”. He is also the Executive Director of the Centre for Environment and Development and has traveled widely across the world as a speaker at many UN summits, conferences and workshops. Currently he is engaged in developing and implementing CSR projects and sustainability plans for corporate and international organizations especially in the Asia Pacific region. Uchita is a strong advocate for creating a better world.

Describe your career - how you started, how you reached the position you are in now etc.
I started as a free-lance journalist working in the in print and radio media. Proudly I can claim that environmental journalism was introduced in Sri Lanka during my time. However, after three years in journalism, I move out to create and lead the largest environmental movement in the country that produced the Citizens’ Report to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. I was selected to be a member of the International NGO Steering Committee of this UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro. Since then I have been part of the global movement for sustainable development, contributing to making this a better world to live in. At the same time I manage the country’s first specialized Corporate Social Responsibility communications agency now in operation for nearly a decade.

How long have you worked in this field?
I started as a journalist in 1987, just out of school and as a twenty year old young idealist. Twenty years later, I am still the idealist dreaming to create that better world. However, from starting as a campaigner for environmental justice, I believe today I am more a strategist for creating sustainable futures for all stakeholders at local and global levels. During these twenty years I have been able to help promote environmental and consumer policy and legislation in Sri Lanka and many parts of the world, especially in the Asia pacific region. During the past seven years out of this, I have been able to make Corporate Social Responsibility a better understood, appreciated and adopted tool for the business and industry sector, which makes the dream easier to achieve.
Describe the concept of CSR.
CSR means responsibility of a company to behave fairly and responsibility towards ensuring its stakeholders wellbeing and conserving the environment. CSR is defined as operating a business in a manner that meets or exceeds the ethical, legal, commercial and public expectations that society has of business. CSR should be seen by leadership of companies as more than a collection of discrete practices or occasional gestures, or initiatives motivated by marketing, public relations or other business benefits. As a main stakeholder of the global and national processes for human wellbeing, the corporate sector has an inherent and uncompromising responsibility towards ensuring sustainable development.

Why are companies suddenly showing lot of interest in CSR?
There are a whole heap of reasons; rise of consumer awareness and activism; social pressure to protect the environment; growing regulatory framework; emphasis on good employee relations and human rights; critical role of supply chain & supply chain relations; recognition of stakeholder participation; public endorsement becoming more vital to operate business; business interest in assuming leadership role in society and economy; strategic capacity for building and maintaining image/reputation, etc. If corporate leadership can appreciate the above factors, then he or she will automatically understand that strategic CSR is a great win-win solution for securing a sustainable business future.

Is CSR practiced well in Sri Lanka?
Unfortunately CSR seem to be used as another marketing opportunity by a majority of companies in Sri Lanka and also around the world. I see four categories of companies who use CSR. First group use CSR for white washing or to cover up their bad practices; I call them the “Bad Corporates”. Second group use CSR as publicity and image building tool; they are the “Opportunist Corporates”. Third group wants to do something for the community; they are the “Philanthropic Corporates”. Fourth group understands, appreciates and uses CSR as a Sustainability Strategy; they are the “Smart Corporates”. Most companies range from group 1-3. The few who are moving from category three to four obviously have lot to offer to the society and will have a strategic advantage in corporate sustainability as well. It is sad to see marketing departments and advertising agencies rushing to redefine CSR to suite their own ends and making a complete mockery of it. It is not only resulting in CSR sadly becoming a tool for image building, but companies have yet to realize that they are not getting value and results for the investment they make on mock social responsibility projects.

So what do you offer your clients as “Strategic CSR”?
My company “D&D” offers complete planning to implement corporate sustainability strategic solutions. We have a group of top experts from various sectors such as law, engineering, social science, economics, marketing, public out-reach, environment, health, public service, communications, etc. that puts in the holistic approach. We insist that the corporate leadership, especially the CEO, head of corporate affairs and head of finance is involved in the planning and integrates the entire cross-section of the company as well. Today, most companies would have a designated like minded management team sitting around a table, short circuiting a strategic process to a brainstorm, and deciding on a project within their inherent limitations. Next you would find them justifying the project and making loads of noise in the media, while rest of the stakeholders a too bitter and disappointed even to comment on it.

There is no short circuiting in strategic CSR planning and implementation. Hardly can you find the diversity, exposure and expertise within corporate management to the levels required for social and environmental sensitivity and understanding. That is why it is vital to bring in the CSR expertise, which can essentially provide you the picture that is often missing within the corporate world. The true picture on business and industry amongst communities, government and civil society are not as rosy as it is portrayed through advertising. It is always healthy to discover the true picture which will provide the company a reality check that can offer a new lease of corporate life. Most companies will invest in CSR and corporate sustainability once they have been brought down by the realities. We offer sustainable futures to corporates clients that also guarantee wellbeing of their stakeholders and the environment. To satisfy the investment, the service includes indicator development for goal achievement and progress tracking as well. A good example is our recent engagement with Fonterra, the largest diary provider in Sri Lanka better known as the Anchor Company. Here we were able to conduct extensive research and develop a comprehensive CSR and corporate sustainability plan, with the full engagement of the CEO, board of directors, senior management and full cross section of the staff.

What attracted you to this profession?
I would not call this a profession, but an engagement of compassion and commitment. The simple proposition of changing the world and making it a better place for all attracts me most in doing what I do. Knowing that my work will enable my child and all other children have a better chance to live in a world that offers quality life encourages me. Seeing changes at various levels inspires me to continue.

What do you like best about your work?
Meeting compassionate people all over the world and having the opportunity to share with them the power of vision, strategy and collective action; spending endless sessions in brainstorming and strategizing to create policy and social instruments; conducting lectures and training to people with influence with hope that changes will be enforced; assisting leaders in the corporate world to realize better and sustainable business paths; working with communities in villages like Madampagama who were tsunami victims and to empower them to help themselves out of poverty; Truly there are so many challenges that inspires me to continue my work.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievements?
The feeling that the world is more receptive and sensitive towards environmental conservation and sustainable development! When I first started my writings as a journalist 20 years ago Sri Lanka did not even have a separate ministry for environment; today we have much commendable legislation even though we till need to implement them better. When I first attended a United Nations meeting seventeen years ago civil society were fighting to at least gain observation privileges; today the UN is championing stakeholder participation and often engage them as partners in global to national programmes. When I first set-up D&D as a CSR communications agency Sri Lankan companies had not heard about it; today every company even for namesake wants to be seen doing something for the society. Well, writing the first Sinhala environmental column in for a news paper, writing the first citizens’ report in the country, being the youngest International NGO steering committee member of the UN Earth Summit in Rio, Writing the civil society chapter for the National Report to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, conducting the Asian review on sustainable consumption in 11 Asian countries, are some highlights in my life, if they are to be considered as achievements. But, being a good person and living a righteous life everyday and continuing to face the challenges that campaigner has to meet equals to all achievement as well.

What are your future plans?
During the next five years my core efforts would be in shaping sustainable consumption and production systems, which is one of the main priority programmes in the world. At the same time I would like to engage companies in Sri Lanka, specially the top leadership, in realizing the benefits of cleaner production, green growth, life cycle management, circular economy and other well developed business processes that are adequately backed by sustainable design and technology. This is where real CSR also comes into focus. It would be helpful to create more awareness among the corporate sector on CSR guidelines and standards as well as strategies and tools.

What advice do you have for a young person interested in entering your field?
Be a people oriented person. Commitment to the cause of wellbeing of the society should become part and parcel of your life. Honesty and sincerity should not be for showcasing, but essentially to govern your conscience. Cultivating the ability to translate vision to reality in the form of results is a good competency. Travel, read, engage, think, dream …. Believe in your dreams and believe in your people. There are many young people from Europe who come and spend there internships with me and they show tremendous aptitude in making change. Youth are the future and the future has to be better.

Tell me about your personal life.
I am married to Shani, a lawyer by profession, who is my eternal caretaker. She simply cares about my personal wellbeing than I ever do. I have a daughter of seven years. She is the inspirational source of life to continue. My mother lives with us, and extends the religious corner in our home. I love music with oriental and African percussion influence, and since recently have started writing meaningful songs as well. I spend most of my time engaging in thought processes and evolving them into reality mechanisms. Traveling across the world to engage in such processes has become part of my life for the past twenty years. But, I spent quality time with my family doing the simple duties, trying to achieve inner happiness.

(Mr. Uchita de Zoysa can be contacted at

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Advancing Sustainable Consumption in Asia

By Uchita de Zoysa, Niclas Svenningsen & Lu Fu*

This article has been prepared from the information derived from SC.Asia: “Capacity Building for Implementation of UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection (sustainable consumption) in Asia”. This two-year project is financially supported by the European Union, through its Asia Pro Eco Programme, and is a collaborative effort between the United Nations Environment Programme, Consumers International, the Center for Environment and Development, and the Danish Consumer Council. The project involved six European countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden) and 12 Asian countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, P.R. China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam).

Sustainable consumption has repeatedly been identified (Agenda 21, WSSD Plan of Implementation, the Asia-Pacific Regional Environmental Ministerial Conference, The Global Environmental Forum etc) as a corner stone for achieving sustainable development in society. It is important to understand that ‘’sustainable consumption’’ does not automatically translate into "less consumption” but rather to more efficient, better informed and less resource intensive consumption. This is especially true for the large segment of Asian population living in poverty, often having a real need to rather increase their consumption of basic products and services.

The Asian region is characterized by a large and rapidly growing population (Asia is already home to more than half of the world population and is projected to reach 4.7 billion in 2025), a fast growing economy, with many markets opening up to international trade and influences, and a high rate of urbanization coupled with increasing average life spans. There are presently more ‘middle to high income’ consumers – those earning more than US$7,000 per annum - in Asia and the Pacific than in Western Europe and North America combined. Yet this still represents only 26 percent of the region’s population. All this adds up to a future scenario where more and more people, by meeting their basic needs and demands through increased consumption, increase the ’’consumption pressure’’ (an aggregated measure of the combined resource utilization and pollution generation) to levels corresponding to the ones found in Europe or North America today.

The potential environmental and social impact from a scenario where the Asian population decide to fulfill their needs by following the same patterns of increased consumption as in Europe or North America, would lead to environmental and ecological disaster. For example, assuming that India, Indonesia and China would achieve the global average of car ownership, 200 million vehicles would be added to the global fleet, twice the number of all cars in the USA today. Still, due to the wide disparities between countries and even more within countries, for a major part of the Asia/Pacific population, sustainable consumption would imply that consumption would have to increase for those without access to basic needs, whereas the more affluent consumers would have to change their patterns and levels of consumption. This dual complexity has made the consumption issue difficult for many countries to deal with. Our research has indicated that in most Asian countries, governmental policies are focussed on increasing economic growth, and private and public consumption, without paying enough attention to how to make this growth and consumption sustainable.

The relationship between material commodities and social well-being is more complex than conventional policy suggests. More emphasis needs to be placed on other contributors to quality of life, such as health, community engagement and meaningful work.

Sustainable consumption should therefore be understood as a situation where consumer needs and demands are fulfilled in an as efficient and resource lean way as possible, resulting in a minimized negative environmental, social and economic impact. The ultimate goal of sustainable consumption is improved quality of life for all consumers.

Sustainable consumption is not only about meeting the needs of consumers at the same time as protecting the environment, but is also an important strategy for achieving poverty alleviation. The lack of access to basic services, such as water, energy and health services, is in itself a key barrier for economic development for many poor people. A few examples of how sustainable consumption can help remove that barrier are:
Avoid depletion of water reserves by applying water usage plans, by minimizing distribution losses and pollution of water reserves, and by promoting technologies using less water (in industry and households).
Provide access to safe and affordable transport, by giving preference to public transport systems for medium distances, and non-motorized transport systems for short distances.
Ensure secure food items by applying a labeling system, supported by independent testing/verification of product features.
Avoid littering and illegal waste dumping by promoting sustainable product design and by establishing a recycling system supported by economic incentives.
Establish markets for sustainable products, such as organic food, by adopting green procurement policies.

It is therefore essential to recognize that governments do not only have an interest in promoting sustainable consumption, but are also well positioned to create conditions that would influence the individual consumer to adopt more sustainable consumption habits.

At the same time it is also important to acknowledge the considerable force that “consumer demand” exercises on political decision-making. Few decision makers would be willing to support sustainable consumption if it implied limiting the opportunities for consumers to eat the food they like, to wear the clothes they prefer or to travel in the mode they want. While sustainable consumption may indeed have this implication in some areas, it first and foremost seeks to balance the demands of the individual consumer with the needs of the society as a whole (including avoiding depleting natural resources for future generations).

This may be exemplified by the use of the private car. Today the car is in many countries one of the great icons of wealth and status, in addition to filling the practical purpose of transport. The real need is access to transport. If public transport can be developed to an adequate level, the actual need for a private automobile will be reduced for many people. The desire to own and drive your own car may nevertheless still be with the consumer. Cars that are more efficient, less resource consuming and less polluting are therefore still important to develop. The new generation of hybrid cars, having significant lower fuel consumption and emission per km travelled, have gained an unexpected and quite remarkable popularity in the two largest markets for cars: USA and Japan. By promoting these kinds of technologies, in combination with improved public transport, countries can pursue sustainable consumption while still meeting the consumers’ demands. The tag line for this situation would therefore not be “consume less” but “consume smarter”.

UN Guidelines on consumer protection: section G on sustainable consumption

Consumption is widely seen as “the other side of the coin” of production. Environmental, economic and social dimensions of production patterns are directly linked to the consumption patterns in the markets they serve. While the environmental, social and economic aspects of production processes have been in the focus for various efforts to attain sustainable development for many years, it is only recently that the intricate interaction with the consumption side has come into focus. The Plan of Implementation, adopted at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, notes in chapter 3 that "fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development”. The Plan also calls for a number of more specific actions to be taken by international organizations and governments to achieve such changes.

The United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985 in its resolution 39/85, is an important instrument in this regard The Guidelines represent an international framework for Governments, particularly those of developing countries, to use in formulating and strengthening consumer protection policies and legislation. In 1999 the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection were expanded to include elements on sustainable consumption. The expanded guidelines provide an important opportunity to include environmental protection and sustainable development and to strengthen the linkage between consumer interests and sustainable consumption, thereby stimulating national policy making to promote more sustainable consumption. The guidelines recommend governments to take action in nine specific areas:

Environmentally sound products services and technologies
Recycling programmes for waste and products
Regulatory mechanism
Economic instruments
Public (product) information
Impartial testing of products
Research on consumer behaviour
Sustainable practices (e.g. public green procurement)
Awareness and information campaigns

Status of Sustainable Consumption in Asia

As part of an Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption conducted in the year 2004, information was collected about the present level of adoption of the nine specific sustainable consumption elements mentioned in the UN guidelines on sustainable consumption (see above). Keeping in mind the wide range of conditions in the 12 countries, the following summary can be made:

Environmentally sound products services and technologies
In general terms, technology development in Asia is quite strong. This is especially evident in China and Malaysia, where much of the world’s high-tech innovation and production is taking place today. In these countries there are also ample examples of locally developed technologies that support more sustainable consumption patterns (transport, communication, energy etc). India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand are also moving in this direction, although technologies are more often imported than locally developed. Most of the 12 countries also make use to some extent of indigenous technologies for consumption use, mostly in rural areas. However, as in most other parts of the world, environmentally sound products, services and technologies are more often an exception than a rule.

Recycling programmes for waste and products
Waste generation is one of the most visible side effects of consumption. In countries like China, Philippines, and Malaysia modern technologies are now deployed to tackle urban waste problems. However, even if modern technology is used, there are many other barriers (political, financial, planning related etc) that complicate and delay implementation. This also applies to recycling systems, where informal and small-scale recycling is still quite common but implementation of larger national recycling systems is lagging behind. Waste recycling is high on the political agenda in all the 12 countries, especially in larger cities, but the means to implement recycling schemes are often lacking.

Regulatory mechanism
Many countries in the region have consumer protection legislation and regulation, and in some cases these are partially/indirectly also related to sustainable consumption. The Green Procurement act in the Philippines is probably one of the foremost examples. Otherwise, legislation that directly targets sustainable consumption does hardly exist in the 12 SC.Asia countries, although such legislation can be found in other Asian countries (Japan and Republic of Korea).

Enforcement of this kind of legislation is also generally poor. The exceptions may be found in India, where consumer protection regulations are well designed and networked through the consumer courts, and in China, progressing with both the regulatory mechanisms and enforcement.

Economic instruments
Most of the Asian governments tend to shy away from providing economic incentives for supporting sustainable consumption, be it positive incentives (e.g. subsidies for sustainable products) or negative (e.g. taxes on waste). On the other hand, there are many examples of economic incentives that encourage unsustainable consumption. Most probably, the potential of sustainable consumption to build sustainable development, including a sustainable economy, is still not well recognized, why economic incentives discouraging certain forms of consumption are not even considered. In addition, as economic incentives always have an economic impact on somebody, there is an additional popularity aspect to consider for politicians.

Public (product) information
Legislation for product information does exist in most countries but is not well enforced. Furthermore, the kind of information stipulated by such legislation is usually more relevant for consumer protection issues food safety) than for sustainable consumption issues (food security).

Impartial testing of products
The best cases of impartial testing were found in India where the consumers NGOs are more active. While testing of products for standards etc. are conducted to some extent in almost all countries, truly impartial testing is by and large lacking in the region. The main reason seems to be the high costs involved.

Research on consumer behaviour
Most consumer behaviour research in Asia is carried out for marketing purposes, rather identifying how consumption can be increased, than how it can be made more sustainable. Many policy and research based groups as well as NGOs are also conducting research that can be qualified under this category. However this research is typically narrower in scope and often commissioned for specific purposes not directly related to sustainable consumption. In the least developed countries of the region, this kind of research does not exist at all.

Sustainable government practices
In China, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand the governments have recently made decisions on adopting public green procurement practices. Translating these decisions into action takes some time however, and there are as yet no indications whether these decisions have had any real impact. Other examples of sustainable government practices, such as recycling of paper in government offices and making use of electronic filing systems, are rapidly becoming more common.

Awareness and information campaigns
Public information campaigns promoting more sustainable consumption habits are quite common in the region, especially in developed countries in Asia. However, campaigns are often not directly geared towards sustainable consumption, but to an associated issue, such as health, environment or safety. In developing and least developed countries, including the 12 SC.Asia countries, campaigns are much less common. People in countries like Sri Lanka, Philippines and Malaysia are more aware of good environmental practices than in others due to the impact of regular and widespread campaigning. However, the economic poverty conditions prevailing in parts of India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, China and many of these countries prevent people from practicing sustainable consumption.

Main Findings of the Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption
From the Asian Review a number of key issues were identified, that may important to keep in mind when discussing sustainable consumption in the Asian context:
Awareness on sustainable consumption is generally low
The concept of sustainable consumption is in general quite low and the actual meaning of the concept poorly understood (usually it is misunderstood, as elaborated above). This applies to governments as well as civil society stakeholders. In comparison terms such as sustainable production and sustainable development are better known. Nevertheless there are activities related to sustainable consumption on-going in every country, although these are not labelled as “sustainable consumption” but rather as “sustainable energy”, sustainable transport”, “organic food” etc. To the extent sustainable consumption appears on the political agenda in countries, it is typically as part of policies and strategies for sustainable development.

Different perception of the relevance of sustainable consumption
Possibly because of the low awareness and understanding of the concept, sustainable consumption, is normally regarded as having a lower priority and relevance to national development goals than e.g. sustainable production. Furthermore, many stakeholders in Asia regard consumption as a problem relevant only for western developed countries. This reflects the misunderstanding that sustainable consumption is all about consuming less. At the same time, however, especially in countries with a rapidly developing economy (e.g. China, Malaysia, Thailand), the importance of avoiding repeating the mistakes of western countries in building societies based on an ever-increasing consumption is recognized. Therefore, even if the relevance of sustainable consumption to developing countries is generally not recognized, the potential of the concept for leading the national development onto a sustainable path is recognized. Sustainable consumption activities that were identified in the Asian review were typically carried out on project basis and most often initiated as environmental projects, rather than as sustainable consumption projects.

Sustainable consumption is not yet on the agenda of consumer groups
The consumer movement in Asia is first and foremost focussed on consumer rights and consumer protection issues. This is by tradition and for good reasons in countries where substandard products are common and means to seek compensation from producers is often limited. Sustainable consumption is clearly a lower priority for most consumer groups and is not even on the agenda for most of the groups contacted in this review.

A few good examples
The Asian review identified a large number of case studies of activities and projects that directly or indirectly relates to sustainable consumption (see separate paper). Generally however, there are only a few kinds of activities that tend to surface at the national level:
Ø Waste management projects can be found in different stages of development in all countries.
Ø Ensuring adequate food supply is on the top of the agenda in any country. The attention given to sustainable consumption is often directly linked with this issue. Organic food, being relevant both to food safety (food quality) and food supply (food security) takes a special place in this regard, and is slowly being recognized in several countries as having a high development potential.
Ø Transport is another issue common for countries with rapidly growing urban centres. While some countries, such as India, have taken drastic action (in the case of public transport in New Delhi), many other are still struggling to find a solution.

Key constraints
The range of tools normally included in the sustainable consumption tool box (e.g. the actions recommended under the UN guidelines) include several tools that for different reasons does not work as well in Asia as in Europe:
Ø Legislation is well recognized and often also well developed. However, if enforcement is lacking (as it often does) the impact of the legislation is quite limited.
Ø Economic incentives are (politically) difficult to apply because of the cost they result in, either for the government or for different stakeholder groups (producers, consumers, retailers etc).
Ø Infrastructure and financing sources are often much more limited in developing countries and there is a reluctance to finance new investments through user fees or other non-traditional sources of funding.

Key opportunities
Even if the general awareness and understanding of the sustainable consumption concept is low, a considerable interest for the concept was shown by groups being introduced to the concept through the Asian review. There is clearly a high potential to kick-start activities and regional networking in this area in Asia. An important consideration is, as ever, what level of technical and financial support that can be generated for specific activities.

How to achieve Sustainable Consumption in Asia

Throughout the review process it became evident that sustainable consumption as a concept is generally poorly understood in most countries. So far very little attention has been given to sustainable consumption issues (as opposed to safe consumption, which is comparatively well developed) in the participating countries. Environmental impact has first and foremost been approached as an issue for producers and regulating authorities to deal with, and the connections between consumption and other development goals has mostly been approached from a purely economic perspective. Unfortunately, by approaching consumption only from an economic perspective, the misconception that any kind of increased consumption is good for the economy and thereby for the society as a whole is easily arrived at.

This emphasizes the need to present sustainable consumption within its proper context, clarifying not only how it can be achieved, but also why it should be pursued. It is important that sustainable consumption is recognized as a strategy to meet other development goals, such as access to basic services, economic development and poverty eradication. In order to avoid presenting the concept as a goal in itself it is also necessary to highlight that successfully adopted sustainable consumption approaches should ultimately result in a better quality of life.

A drawback of the UN guidelines on consumer protection, section G on sustainable consumption, is that recommended actions are presented without clarifying how they may contribute to sustainable consumption and how they relate to each other and to other “building blocks” not specifically mentioned in the guidelines. For this reason the following model (figure 1) was developed to explain how sustainable consumption may contribute to a better quality of life, and how the specific actions recommended in the UN guidelines contribute to that end. The model may be summarized as follows:

The main goal for sustainable consumption is to achieve a better quality of life for all
There are numerous reasons to adopt sustainable consumption, including the need for poverty alleviation, protection of natural resources, and sustainable economic development. However, the overarching goal in adopting sustainable consumption policies and activities is to achieve a better quality of life for all (very good).

To achieve the goal of better quality of life through sustainable consumption the following priorities are identified in Asia
Sustainable economic development
Create an informed society
Ensure food security
Provide health and sanitation
Develop environmentally sound products and services

Goals, Activities and Supporting Mean for Sustainable Consumption in Asia

The main Goal of Sustainable Consumption in Asia has been identified as “Improved Quality of Life for all”.

For this Activities in the following areas will help achieve sustainable consumption in Asia
Awareness, education & marketing campaigns
Waste Management through the reduce, reuse, recover & recycle approach
Certification & product information
Sustainable government practices
Independent testing

Supporting means of achieving sustainable consumption could be:
Finance, infrastructure & capacity building
Monitoring & enforcement
Economic instruments
Voluntary business and social instruments
Legislative backup
Consumer behaviour research
Efficient and appropriate technologies
Good governance

Goal: Better quality of life
The 12 countries studied in this review display significant differences in economic, social and cultural conditions. The group includes least developed (LDC) countries such as Bangladesh, Laos and Nepal, as well as the two economic giants of the region; China and India. Also rapidly growing economies such as Malaysia and Thailand are represented. The average income per capita ranges from US$ 310 to US$ 9000 per person and year. At the same time, however, all countries (possibly with the exception of some LDCs) showcase large disparities of income within each country, including people living in absolute poverty as well as the extremely wealthy. In addition several countries have also established a large (and growing) middle-income class of consumers, contributing to the rapidly increasing consumption levels in the region. Further complicating the situation is a growing divide between rural and urban population. Urbanization is a major factor in Asia, focussing economic development (as well as associated environmental and social problems) to urban centers, leaving rural areas in the backwaters of development.

Nevertheless and in spite of differences between and within countries, there are a number of goals that are generally recognized in all these countries as overarching development priorities. These include meeting the needs of all people for access to food, clothing & shelter, followed by health & sanitation, education, communication, energy and transport. One of the greatest challenges for Asian governments is to meet the millennium goal of halving the number of people in poverty by 2015. With a 1.3 per cent population growth rate, the challenge is immense as the number of people in poverty too is rising along with the growing population. In Asia it is believed that alleviating poverty is one of the main strategies to achieve improved quality of life.

Highlighting how sustainable consumption may contribute to the above priorities, and in particular to poverty alleviation, is therefore important.

Priority area: Sustainable economic development
The term “sustainable economic development” denotes a situation where the national economy is able to ensure that the basic needs are fulfilled for all. In a sense it is more ambitious than the traditional ambition of “economic growth” as it also implies that the economic growth of a country should not be allowed to infringe on the access to basic needs and services of its population. An example of how sustainable economic development diverges from traditional economic development is the cutting down forests (for timber sale) in an area where people make a living from the forest itself.

In some instances, governments are also trying to ensure that the basic needs provided for under sustainable economic development are also met from resources within the country, rather than from imported resources. Energy supply is one such example, where several countries depending on imported fossil fuels have now set ambitious targets for developing nationally available energy sources, including renewable energy sources. At the same time however, the potential benefits of globalisation also need to be recognized in allowing countries to provide for basic needs at a cheaper cost.

Sustainable consumption will normally contribute to sustainable economic development by ensuring that resources are utilised in an as efficient way as possible, through improved technologies, increased consumer awareness, better integration of governmental policies, economic instruments, legislation, etc.

Priority area: An informed society
Consumers in Asia typically form their consumption patterns based on factors such as access, price, convenience, brand recognition, and quality. While acknowledging the fact that consumer purchasing power is often limited and low in Asia, lack of awareness, education and knowledge about how consumers’ habits may impact the environment or their long-term health is still a key reason for unsustainable consumption trends in Asia.

Efforts to inform and educate people (in their roles as consumers, as well as in their professional roles as producers, decision-makers, politicians, civil society representatives etc) are therefore a key area to address. This was also singled out in the UN guidelines as a recommended action area. Awareness and education, fostering consciousness and willingness to act, is many times seen as a stronger tool to influence public behaviour, than law and enforcement (in particular when enforcement is weak, as it often is).

Priority area: Food security
One of the greatest challenges of Asia is feeding the large population. The challenge of food security is in providing adequate food supplies of sufficient quality to everybody.

Food production, including agriculture, fishery/aquaculture and animal husbandry, is a major consumer of water and energy, as well as being a main cause for global deforestation, pollution and extinction of species. It is also an area of international conflicts, not least in the World Trade Organisation, where unilateral support to domestic food producers, are accused of being a major cause of unfair distribution of global wealth.

In order to increase the output from food production per hectare of productive land, monocultures, chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMO) are becoming more common. Unfortunately, these may also have negative effects such as mono-cultures running the risk of being totally wiped out by one single pest, chemicals causing pollution and decreasing biodiversity, and GMO’s beings spread beyond controlled areas.

If food security is an element of sustainable consumption, then food production systems that can meet the demand for food, without posing a risk to health and environment need to be developed. Organic food (defined as food manufactured only using natural methods, without the use of chemicals, GMO’s or other synthetic input) is one example of such systems. The mainstream food producers in Asia, as well as their counterparts in governments, are often not well aware about these challenges and are poorly prepared to deal with adverse effects. The recent and repetitive bird flu epidemic in Asia is an excellent example of the inability of many producers (and in some countries also of the concerned authorities) to recognize the need to change their behaviour. Sustainable consumption activities, such as public education and information, certification and independent testing of products, and sustainable practices, can be useful tools in promoting food security.

Priority area: Health and sanitation
Access to health services (medical services as well as clean freshwater) and to sanitation is integral for sustainable consumption. On average, Asia has the lowest availability of freshwater per capita in the world. According to the World Health Organization inadequate water supply and poor sanitation cause over half a million infant deaths a year in Asia and huge burden of illness. On the other hand several Asian countries have developed world-leading health services, as well as public health programmes, and are also undertaking ambitious water supply and sanitation programmes. The challenge for Asian countries, from a sustainable consumption perspective, is to extend these services to everybody, not only to persons above a certain level of income or to persons living in urban centres. Tools identified in the UN guidelines that may be used for this purpose include economic instruments, use of improved technologies and access to education and information.

Priority area: Environmentally sound products and services
Environmentally sound products and services meet the needs of the consumer in an as effective and efficient way as possible, with a minimized negative impact on the environment. Such products and services can be exemplified by renewable energy sources, by public transport, by e-mail for communication, by recyclable packaging, by low-energy light bulbs and so on.

Access to environmentally sound products and services highlights the links between producers and consumers. Consumers can only consume what is offered by producers, and producers tend to produce what they think consumers are likely to buy. Therefore, if consumers are to become more sustainable, producers need to offer products that are more sustainable, including aspects on the products’ resource use, waste generation, effectiveness in satisfying the need of the consumer and so on.

This integrated approach to improving the total system of production-consumption was established at WSSD and is promoted under the 10-year Framework on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), or the so called “Marrakech process”. While sustainable consumption in general and the UN guidelines in particular, are contributing to SCP, sustainable consumption is in itself a more narrowly focussed undertaking.

Access to environmentally sound products and services is not limited to the developed world but is more often owned by an individual company or organisation that may be applying this technology in developed as well as developing countries. A common challenge for adopting such products and services is not only accessing information about the technology, but also to develop capacity (intellectual as well as infrastructure, cultural and economic capacity) to adopt the product/service. In addition, consumers need to be provided with adequate information about the product/service (e.g. in the form of an eco-label or product declaration) in order to be able to make an informed choice. Such labels/product declarations furthermore need to be independently verified to be reliable.

The above reasoning leads to many of the action areas (third level from the top in figure 1) recommended for achieving sustainable consumptions, many of which are also recommended in the UN guidelines.

Action area: Awareness, education and marketing campaigns
The general level of awareness about sustainable consumption issues is quite low in Asia. Considering that the individuals, business and government organisations are not only potential targets for sustainable consumption efforts, but are also potential agents for change, it is essential that their knowledge about sustainable consumption in improved. It is therefore extremely important to provide education, information and marketing campaigns about sustainable consumption. In addition to seeking to raise the awareness among the general public, specific campaigns targeting key stakeholder groups, such as media, retailers, and corporate decision-makers may be warranted.

Action area: Waste management through the reduce, reuse, recover and recycle approach
Piling mountains of waste in the streets and at the waste dump are perhaps the first visible signs of a society not coping with its consumption patterns. This is especially apparent in (but in no way restricted to) larger cities in Asia. While serious efforts are made by local authorities to acquire and manage landfills, this too has been opposed and confronted by community and environmental lobbies. The positive reaction to this by government, civil society and even the business sector is the gradual recognition of waste as material sources for new products. There are many cases of recovery and recycling of organic matter into composting, plastic recycling into different forms of products, lead recovery from batteries, waste paper recycling, etc. The examples found in Asia range from small home based best practices, through community programmes and cottage industries up to large-scale industrial recycling businesses and even national scale circular economy programmes.

The main challenge in many Asian countries is to establish a wider recycling system for specific materials.

Action area: Certification and product information
Certification and product information serves to provide the consumers with reliable and easily accessible information/indications about the environmental impact/criteria of that product. The environmental labelling process in Asia can be traced to over a decade in countries like Thailand and India, while the more recent attempts can be found in China and Philippines. Most of these programmes are an extension of the environmental or organic movement. Such eco-labelled products are more a fashion or prestige item for the upper consumer class that has the purchasing power. The fact that such eco-labelled products are less in quantity, higher in price and lacks mass accessibility has weakened their penetration and are in fact not widely recognized among consumers in Asia.

Certification and product information/eco-labelling are also being used as a tool to access export markets to countries where the consumer awareness is better developed. However, the eco-labelling process itself has become an issue of high pricing where natural and organic based agriculture that prevails in parts of rural Asia falls out of the context of legitimate labelled production.

Eco-labels should not be confused with product quality standards, which are devised to control the quality and health aspects of products and services (in fact, some quality standards, such as ISO 9000 do not prescribe the quality level itself, only that the quality level does not change from time to time). Most of the countries under review do have set product quality standards for both consumer products and health products. However, while legislation is sufficient to address the issues of consumer protection, the enforcement capacity needs serious attention.

Action area: Sustainable Government Practices
Public procurement has been considered one of the key policies that could be used to promote changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. Sustainable procurement is the process in which organisations buy supplies or services by taking into account:
the best value for money considerations such as, price, quality, availability, functionality, etc.;
environmental aspects ("green procurement": the effects on the environment that the product and/or service has over its whole lifecycle, from cradle to the grave);
the entire Life Cycle of products;
social aspects: effects on issues such as poverty eradication, international equity in the distribution of resources, labour conditions, human rights.

Based on the project's research Asian organizations are far from truly implementing sustainable practices within their own operations. Low potential of investment in new infrastructure, lack of price competitive products in the market and inadequate supply chain to promote environmentally sound alternative products and services are primary reasons for the low levels of implementation.

Only very few examples, such as the Philippine Presidential Decree on Green Procurement, can be found in Asia. While the actual practice is yet to be implemented in the Philippines? It should be noted that many other governments in Asia too have discussed the possibilities of starting the green procurement process with government institutions taking the lead.

Action area: Impartial product testing
Different levels of economic development and inconsistent approaches to product testing means that consumers make purchasing choices based on incomplete data and controversial claims. Traditionally, independent product testing for environmental claims and effects has involved only a minimal range of products, usually those covered by labelling schemes. Therefore, there is a need to broaden testing efforts that focus on health, safety and performance aspects to also include sustainability concerns. Such an approach would involve testing of issues along the production, consumption and disposal phases of a product and/or service.

Independent product testing can give an indication of a product’s impact on different environmental burdens such as depletion of the ozone layer, waste generation or destruction of ecosystems. Additionally, product testing can provide a picture of the sustainability of a product or service throughout its life-cycle, rather than isolated testing of the production, use or disposal phases. Independence of testing bodies is a crucial factor to consider. This is because testing bodies that do not have a vested interest in the products or services under scrutiny appear to elicit greater public confidence.

One of the weakest areas in Asia is on impartial testing of products and claims. This is due to lack of infrastructure and capacity available in Asia and specially the high costs involved in the process. While governments too are finding the process expensive to maintain, independent parties such as NGOs are rarely able to conduct professional testing due lack of funding and facilities. Asian governments generally need to improve their capacities to conduct impartial testing by assisting in the setting-up of more modern laboratories and also by backing up independent groups in establishing testing laboratories.

Supporting area: Finance, infrastructure and capacity building
Although Asian national policies do not mention sustainable consumption as a national goal, the fact is that sustainable consumption is accepted as a means of achieving better life styles. However, the main constraint in implementing the concrete action areas identified in the review is lacking financial resources, infrastructure and capacity to implement the actions. While the first task is making sustainable consumption a stated national priority, the other immediate approach should be to support such policy by enabling finance, infrastructure and capacity building both from internal and external sources.

This is of course in no way a unique observation for sustainable consumption or for Asia. However as sustainable consumption should contribute to other development priorities of governments being achieved, it should be possible to pool resources from several different stakeholders (industry, government, civil society) or from different departments within an organisation (e.g. from different ministries) to implement sustainable consumption activities. Public-private partnerships and inter-departmental coordination could be used for this purpose.

Supporting area: Monitoring and enforcement
Asian countries do have progressed well in their legislation to promote environmental protection that complements sustainable consumption as well. The weakness in achieving the mandated process is the weakness in monitoring and enforcement. The first reason for weak monitoring and enforcement is attributed to lack of capacity that stems from financial constraints. Although this holds truth to a great extent, it should be noted that corruption, lack of commitment and political interference too are major contributors in this situation.

The Consumer Courts in India provide a rare success story in the area of monitoring and enforcement capacity. The unique and decentralised consumer courts system established in India is a positive model that can be adopted by many countries in Asia to provide effective and efficient consumer protection.

Supporting area: Economic instruments
Consumers, as well as producers and their intermediaries (e.g. distributors, retailers and marketing agencies) are all first and foremost reacting to economic signals. For most consumers in Asia the price of a product is the single most important factor deciding what product they purchase. For this reason it is important that sustainable products and services are at least competitively priced (preferably having a cheaper price) compared to other products/services. Economic tools such as tax breaks, pollution fees, pay-for-return systems etc. need to be established.

Supporting area: Voluntary business and social instruments
The main voluntary business instruments discussed in the Asian review are corporate social responsibility (CSR), Social Responsibility Investment (SRI), Life Cycle Approach (LCA) and Full Cost Accounting (FCA).

Even if there are a growing number of companies adopting these tools, as well as triple bottom-line reporting and other tools, these still only constitute a small part of the total business sector in the region. Typically it is large multinational corporations that are leading the way. The vast majority of small and medium sized enterprises (SME) remain outside these programmes, both for lack of capacity and lack of finance. Voluntary business instruments have nevertheless the potential for creating a more supportive environment for sustainable consumption. Capacity building and possibly business-to-business sharing of practices (or greening of the supply chains) may be useful for engaging more companies.

Supporting area: Legislative backup
A plethora of environmental and consumer protection legislative instruments are widely available in most of the countries in the region. The leading legislation that promotes sustainable consumption comes from the National Environmental Acts and Consumer Protection Acts. In some countries the National Policy on Sustainable Development also deals with sustainable consumption as a sub-issue of sustainable development. Some countries, e.g. the Philippines, have progressed into having legislation/standards promoting individual sustainable consumption building blocks e.g. public green procurement.

However, as sustainable consumption is in fact constituted by several individual elements (as described in figure 1), many of which are already covered by legislation, new legislation for sustainable consumption may not always be the best way to approach the situation. Instead, existing legislation may be adapted to better promote sustainable consumption, and enforcement of existing legislation may be strengthened.

Supporting area: Consumer behaviour research
One of the weak and neglected areas in Asia is the conduct of proper and continuous consumer behaviour research. Knowledge about the preferences and behaviour of consumers is necessary to obtain in order to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns. Consumer behaviour is Asia however probably rather diverse, ranging from rather western-style modelled patterns among richer segments of the population, to more traditional, possibly also more sustainable, patterns among low-income consumers, much governed by their limited access to services, infrastructure and products.

Whatever the situation may be there is very little research being conducted in Asia to ascertain the patterns and changes of consumer behaviour. Most of the consumer research is conducted for market research requirement with clear objectives to identify areas to penetrate and induce the consumer towards more consumption.

Supporting area: Efficient and appropriate technologies
Efficient and appropriate technologies are superior to other similar technologies in various ways, e.g by generating more output from the same amount of input (e.g. recovering more ore from mining waste, purify wastewater to a higher standard, and reduce pollution from burning fossil fuels) and by doing this in a way that is acceptable financially, socially and culturally.

A simple technology, such as drilled freshwater well, may have enormous consequences in freeing up time for villagers, previously spent on carrying water from long distances.

Adoption of new technologies, especially in industry, is more or less self-regulating. There is a constant race for gaining the competitive advantage by improving the technology applied for a certain process. Larger companies have often an advantage in a better developed capacity for adopting new technologies. The role of government can be to stimulate the development and adoption of cleaner technologies by the private sector, possibly with an extra focus on supporting the important SME sector.

Governments can also strengthen their capacity to deal with possible unintended effects of technological change by applying social instruments, by promoting greater openness to societal concerns about new technologies, and building the capacity to assess technologies in agencies responsible for protecting the public interest independently from the agencies promoting their adoption.

Supporting area: Good governance
Corruption, lack of transparency, and authoritarian decision-making has become part and parcel of many sectors within Asian societies. An estimate by the Asian Business Review shows that up to 50% of public income is diverted through corruption and bribes in some countries. Providing a level playing field for all actors is one of the most important conditions for sustainable consumption, and for this to be achieved, corruption is one of the most important factors to overcome.

While good governance is expected from the national legislative sectors and administrative sectors, it should also be noted that business and civil society sectors too should effectively practice good governance for a society to achieve better living standards as a whole and therefore sustainable consumption.

Opportunities for Promoting Sustainable Consumption

The appropriate conditions for transfer of know-how may be described as:
Useful information is available
The owner of the information is willing to share this
The recipient of the information is willing and able to receive and adopt the information for local purposes.

In the case of sustainable consumption, the first and second bullet is generally fulfilled. As for the third bullet, the general low awareness and understanding of sustainable consumption in Asia (as was identified in the Asian review) presents the first barrier to successful transfer of information. Engaging and motivating key decision-makers in government and other sectors may therefore be a first priority.

This priority is probably most gainfully achieved if sustainable consumption is presented into the local context. It is essential to clarify how sustainable consumption may contribute to other higher priorities in the local context, and how different groups and society as a whole can benefit from adopting sustainable consumption practices. It is equally important to achieve the appropriate stakeholder buy-in, ensuring that traditional values, social and cultural identities, and other priorities of the local consumers are not negatively affected. It is here important to also recognise that the term “consumer demand” is not limited to affluent western consumption styles, but is equally applicable to large segments in Asia being exposed to affluent styles of consumption.

Governments obviously have a key role to play in creating the proper conditions conducive to sustainable consumption, and in activating other stakeholders. This is also a reason for the UN guidelines to focus on government initiated activities, and for SC.Asia to engage governments in the project. However, the need for active support and participation of other stakeholders, in particular from civil society, is equally important, as is also reflected in the composition of the SC.Asia target groups.

As with many other efforts sustainable consumption initiatives may best be promoted by initiating limited activities with a clear focus and target, demonstrating the meaning and potential benefits of sustainable consumption to other stakeholders. “Learning by doing” is a well-recognised approach and is also the suggested approach. By drafting and testing “National Action Plans on Sustainable Consumption” for a specific area, a country may be able to overcome some of the initial barriers to sustainable consumption. In addition, this approach awards a sense of ownership and responsibility for the plans to participant countries. This will be an important ingredient to sustaining national-level efforts towards implementing sustainable consumption.

* The Authors of the Article: Mr. Uchita de Zoysa is Executive Director of the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) based in Sri Lanka. He was also a Member of the SC.Asia Advisory Board and Head of the Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption. Mr.Niclas Svenningsen was the coordinator of the SC.Asia Project and Ms. Lu Fu was a consultant. Both of them work for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) based in Paris & Bangkok offices respectively.