Consumers can pressure firms to go green

Conserving resources is but treating a symptom. Perhaps the more effective and sustainable solution is to continue to compel businesses to be responsible for looking after and improving the environment ("Conserve resources, as mercury rises"; April 21).

While businesses know the importance and value of going green, not many of them have focused on it or given it due attention.

As long as it has not been legislated on a national or global basis, there is no impetus to invest time and effort in protecting the environment.

If change is to happen, it must start from the lifeline of every business: consumers. They have the power to ensure that businesses incorporate an environmental bottom line as part of their business model. They can compel businesses to compete with one another in the green race to win consumers' hearts and wallets.

To address the green challenge, more investment is needed to educate and grow the number of green consumers and influence their buying behaviour.

These consumers need to be able to access information about the environmental-friendliness of the businesses and products they are dealing with.

But the challenge is that there is a lack of transparency in this area. It is hard to tell which enterprise is greening its business or, for that matter, not doing its part in protecting the environment. There is no consistent format that can be used to benchmark the green effort and outcome.

A more concerted effort is needed to galvanise people - the public, private and political sectors - on a transborder basis, to make it mandatory for enterprises to take up sustainability reporting. These reports should be based on an easy-to-understand template and made available to consumers.

Perhaps consumers should take the initiative to launch a social media site to "name and shame" recalcitrants, so that more pressure can be put on these firms to adopt responsible and sustainable business practices.

Businesses will not change if they do not believe consumers will vote with their feet. They will not take action unless they believe their brands and bank accounts will go downhill.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

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