Consumers in Southeast Asia are increasingly aware of the environmental issues facing their countries’ today, with waste being the top environmental concern, according to Ipsos Business Consulting, a global growth strategy consulting firm.
It spoke in detail about the challenge of plastic pollution in Asean at an event organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Thailand on June 5.
Ipsos Business Consulting told the assembled audience that 49 per cent of respondents in an online survey of 3,928 consumers (across three countries) felt that dealing with waste is now the top priority for their country, with 55 per cent of respondents considering the excessive use of plastics to be a serious problem.
When asked who if anybody did they believe should take most responsibility for finding a way to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging which is sold, over two thirds of consumers (67 per cent) agreed that responsibility needs to be shared equally between government, business and consumers.
Talking about the survey findings, together with his own team’s observations of what is happening across the region, Chukiat Wongtaveerat, Country Head for Thailand at Ipsos Business Consulting, noted that the Ipsos survey showed that consumers are in tune with what action is required if society is to have a meaningful impact on solving the plastic pollution crisis.
He said “what we see from this survey is that consumers are expecting more leadership and direction from government and business, whilst not overlooking their own important role in the process.
Whilst there are some good examples of plastic reduction from packaging companies, makers of packaged goods and retailers, consumers seem ready for, and expect, much more ambitious action. I believe that the general sentiment expressed by the Asean consumers is sensible and aligns with our belief that the region needs a 3-point action plan to reduce waste and plastic pollution, namely:
1 Government must bring forward policies and regulations which promote effective and efficient sustainable packaging practices across the entire value chain.
2 Brand owners must incorporate sustainability within the complete packaging lifecycle and put in place waste management processes that maximize recycling.
3 Consumers must practice responsible purchasing and consumption patterns, taking care to recycle at every opportunity and to minimize their use of single-use packaging.
“History shows that collective goals can be met when widespread awareness meets a will to take action. Issues surrounding plastic manufacture, use, and disposal offer excellent opportunities for leadership at every level of society. Asean stakeholders can deal with plastic waste issues by coordinating up and down the value chain, starting with optimizing their own practices for maximum sustainability” said Wongtaveerat.
Also speaking at the British Chamber of Commerce in Thailand event, Gordon Milne, Senior Client Director, Asia Pacific at Ipsos, talked about how his discussions at businesses operating around the Asia Pacific region.
In some cases, a gap between their corporate leadership’s stated aspirations on sustainable business and reduction of waste, and the initiatives being pursued at a strategic business unit level.
“Manufacturers must increasingly demonstrate to consumers tangible packaging outcomes which are understandable as a direct consequence of their CSR aspirations.
Undoubtedly there are some very good campaigns and initiatives being implemented around the region, which are having a positive impact on the reducing the consumption of plastic. Brand owners should be applauded for this” said Milne.
“But my sense is that much more can be done to seize the opportunity to position their brands in a very positive light with consumers, making the use of eco-friendly materials and sustainable packaging a feature that is strongly associated with the brand.
Packaging is a distinctive brand asset and requires careful management. My belief is that sustainable pack is a commercial imperative that shapes consumer sentiment and drives profitability. Brand owners need to act quickly if they are going to be able to turn this business imperative into an opportunity to enhance their brand image with consumers across Asean.”
Milne went on to acknowledge that there are some hurdles in the way of brand owners, specifically the need for government to set down in clear terms some guidelines on its expectations in relation to packaging, plastic and recycling, as well as the creation of a level playing field for all industry players, including those involved in the recycling business, which should not be under-estimated.