According to the CDP, the consumer goods sector accounts for nearly a third of global emissions when value chains are taken into account. With e-commerce booming in the Asian region, the role of consumer goods companies in tackling climate change will only grow in prominence.
Challenges and Trends
Food, beverages, garments and electronic goods are responsible for a massive amount of carbon emissions when raw material supplies, manufacturing, transport, storage and retailing are combined in the final product footprint. In places like Hong Kong – which imports most of its food – these emissions are attributed to the countries where the products originate. Hong Kong has a very small manufacturing sector, so the same is true for garments and other consumer goods. However, many territories are taking ‘consumption-based’ emissions more seriously. Beyond greenhouse gas emissions, water use and chemical pollution are big issues for both agriculture and manufacturing. Besides these environmental concerns, labour rights, child labour and health and safety in the consumer goods supply chain is a potent issue. Lax standards on this issue can result in devastating loss of consumer support.
The concept of circular economy is a growing consideration in discussions on sustainable consumer goods. This involves better durability, reparability, and reuse of original materials and zero-waste. Questions on packaging and plastic waste are part of the growing debates on product responsibility along with safety, sweatshop factories and climate impact.
Ethical advertising is another aspect related to the consumer sector that is growing in prominence.