S'pore not as keen on buying green as neighbours

Singapore lags behind its South-east Asian neighbours when it comes to "buying green", although it is showing signs of improvement, a new survey suggests.

Asked if they would pay extra for environmentally sustainable products and services, 55 per cent of Singaporeans answered yes - compared to 86 per cent of consumers in Vietnam, 83 per cent in the Philippines, 79 per cent in Thailand, 78 per cent in Indonesia and 69 per cent in Malaysia.

The Republic's figure was also lower than the overall global score of 66 per cent.

Research firm Nielsen polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries from Feb 23 to March 13.

However, the study found slight improvement here. Last year, only 49 per cent of Singaporeans were willing to pay more for greener products.

The survey polled 504 consumers here and asked what influenced their purchasing decisions.

It found that 52 per cent indicated brand trust as the most important consideration, with 47 per cent indicating health and wellness as the second key factor. Only a quarter of Singaporeans surveyed thought that the environment and the community were important factors.

Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim was not surprised by the results.

"Singaporeans are aware of environmental issues but don't feel the impact," she said. "We don't see deforestation happen, massive floods don't rock our economy. Singaporeans are generally also less exposed to nature compared to people in countries with mountains, rolling hills and nature parks.

"So we find it more difficult to relate to environmental issues. Instead, consumers here are more pragmatic and price-driven."

However, she added that the survey was conducted before the haze hit Singapore this year and before the Government started investigating Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). "Hopefully, there is more awareness now."

Earlier this month, major retailers were asked by the Singapore Environment Council to declare that they do not sell products from APP, which is being investigated for its possible links to the haze-causing forest and peatland fires in Indonesia.

Retailers including FairPrice, Sheng Siong and Prime Supermarket have taken APP products off their shelves.

The saga seemed to have galvanised a movement among consumers here. A Straits Times street poll on Thursday found that many would not buy from companies linked to the haze.

Fitness trainer Georgina Chua, 31, now thinks twice when buying a product and has started recycling more. "The price still matters, but now, if I see a green or eco label, I will choose that item if I can afford it," she said. "The haze has made me more aware."

Jessica Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore not as keen on buying green as neighbours'. Print Edition | Subscribe