27 October 2016
Consumers said they would bring their own shopping bags, but only a few chose to buy more expensive sustainable products. Photo: CNSA
Consumers said they would bring their own shopping bags, but only a few chose to buy more expensive sustainable products. Photo: CNSA

HK people’s awareness, action on consumption out of sync: poll

Hong Kong is a rich society that is largely supported by consumption. However, overconsumption leads to waste and puts pressure on the environment.

In its first report on sustainable consumption, released on Monday, the Consumer Council said Hong Kong people are aware of the need for sustainable consumption, but their actions remain out of sync with their knowledge of the concept, the Hong Kong Economic Journal said on Tuesday.

Consumers are reluctant to change their behaviors and lifestyle patterns to achieve sustainable consumption because changing them requires extra effort, the report said.

Professor Wong Yuk-shan, chairman of the Consumer Council, said the government should bear more responsibilities in promoting sustainable consumption.

Aside from exerting effort in education, the government should do more, such as adopting regulations or providing economic incentives to achieve sustainable consumption.

The Consumer Council did a survey on consumption patterns and knowledge of sustainable consumption, interviewing 1,000 respondents from August to September last year.

The results showed that local consumers did well in “awareness” and “behavior”, scoring 74 and 69 marks, respectively, out of a scale of 100.

However, they only scored 48 marks on “willingness to purchase sustainable consumption products”.

For example, Hong Kong consumers agree that separating and recycling waste materials will help protect the environment.

However, only 51 percent of respondents would actually act on it, Wong said.

Sustainable consumption sometimes involves paying more and changing one’s lifestyle, Wong said. However, these are most challenging to Hong Kong consumers.

Respondents said they would bring their own shopping bags and buy water-efficient products. But only a few respondents chose to buy more expensive sustainable products such as eco-labeled products, organic foods or fair trade goods.

It is not easy to change one’s behavior, especially when changing it causes discomfort or requires extra effort, Wong said.

Not too many respondents said they would reduce the use of air-conditioners or air travel as such actions directly affect the quality of their living.

Wong urges consumers to take action right now and take their responsibilties.

Changing one’s behavior involves sacrifices, but such changes could make out environment more sustainable.

HKEJ reporters have tried to get the comments of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and Environment Bureau on sustainable consumption, but both agencies said the issue is outside their scope.

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