Download Short summary of Victoria W. Thoresen`s contribution to the side

yes no Was this document useful for you?
   Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the workof artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Document related concepts
no text concepts found
Short summary of Victoria W. Thoresen’s contribution to the side event panel
on Chemicals at CSD 18 at the UN May 5, 2010
For the consumer, chemicals are the notes which turn into the “music” of the products they
buy and use. Not everyone can read musical notes nor understand how they fit together to
create the sounds we hear. In the same way, consumers are not always aware of the
chemicals involved in everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear and the air
we breathe. Lack of awareness affects the consumer’s understanding of the consequences-environmental, social and economic—of the use of products and services. The challenge we
must deal with today is twofold: 1) How can product information be more transparent and
accountable in relation to chemicals used in the entire supply chain as well as in disposal
processes? 2) How can consumers learn to assess and use available information to change
their behavior to acquire more sustainable lifestyles and to influence changes in production
and governance?
Assessing information
In the present age of information overload, few consumers are interested in spending long
periods of time deciphering what chemicals are involved in the production of, for example,
a chocolate bar or their cell phone. Yet research shows that when simple, relevant
information about products is provided in a manner which is easily understood, consumers
often take the time to consider the information. But what is meant by “simple, relevant and
understandable information”? This is information which, both in advertising and labeling,
indicates agreed upon levels of reliability and responsibility. The International Standards
Organization, for example, has for a number of years developed standards of
environmental friendliness, and has now created ISO 26000 for Social responsibility. These
standards are proof of a product’s or process’s or organization’s ability to live up to specific
levels of acceptable use of, for example chemicals. And they also provide systems by which
stakeholders along the entire supply chain can provide feedback which then can be used to
improve the quality of the product or service.
Changing behaviour
Considering information about the chemicals involved in production and disposal is only a
step towards sustainable lifestyles. The link between knowing and doing must be
strengthened in order for consumers to be motivated to use the power they have in their
interaction with the market and to both buy and live differently. Parents and teachers in
particular, as well as society at large, have the responsibility of defining the ethical norms
which drive our communities. Although incentives such as green taxes, pollution fines and
other forms of rewards and punishment contribute to behavior change, the fundamental
source of change has always been the desire to do and be “better”. In our age, “better”
must be defined as being more socially just and more ecologically sustainable rather than
being merely more economically profitable. In addition this, individuals need to be trained
to be active stakeholders who are willing and able to communicate with producers,
advertisers, governments, etc. New methods of communication are appearing such as
online consultations and social networking. Learning to use these and other tools
constructively can help us all contribute to the creation of a safer, cleaner and more just