Features

Making sustainability a lifestyle rather than a philosophy

31 October 2018
ITC News

We are truly entering the age of the consumer. Across the world consumers are increasingly aware of the impact their purchasing decisions can have on how goods are produced. And there is growing awareness among producers that value chains that are inclusive and support sustainable production can be an attractive proposition for this new and influential generation of ‘woke consumers’ for whom ethical consumption is more a lifestyle than just a philosophy.

How do we support truly sustainable consumption and production patterns? How do we integrate this within the rising concerns of climate change and biodiversity loss. How can we facilitate whole of economy shifts to the green and blue economy. Part of the explanation is in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are an integrated compass that places a key focus on this issue through Goal 12, sustainable consumption and production.

Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns is not easy. Challenges are multifaceted. Poor governance, weak property rights and lack of capacity to enforce environmental and labour protection are just some of the challenges.

While niche market standards offer a real opportunity to improve environmental management, it can also be costly, especially for developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing states or small vulnerable economies, whose farmers and producers are often isolated from markets, have challenges accessing finance and face high costs of certification.

At the International Trade Centre we have been keen to shine a spotlight on voluntary sustainability standards (VSS), which are supplementary to mandatory standards and can facilitate market access and longer-term contacts with premium buyers.

Much of ITC’s work in value chains is linked to providing support to farmers and exporters to obtain quality certifications allowing them to export their goods. In Kenya, for example, ITC provided support along the avocado value chain, ensuring compliance with the GLOBAL G.A.P. standard. As result, farmers are now receiving four times the price per avocado, whereas exporters have boosted sales and are employing more people.

This is a win-win for all involved: consumers in Europe or the Middle East can purchase avocados that are produced and handled according to high health and safety standards; and farmers and producers get a premium price.

Sustainable production can be influenced by sustainable consumption, a significant shift in consumer behavior and the purchasing power behind it.

The question remains: is this applicable across many different markets? That is indeed a challenge: changing the disposable mindset for a reusable one and with a personal call for us to do our own ‘personal’ audits, to take stock, and make impactful and lasting changes that can affect our world.