Climate Feedback

Feeling friendly about the future?

Olive Heffernan

Having been off the airwaves for a while, I’m back with some further musings on climate change surveys, which (unwittingly) seems to be becoming a bit of a pet topic of mine.

Today saw the launch of ‘Future Friendly’, a partnership between four British NGOs, the Energy SavingTrust, Global Cool, Waste Watch and Waterwise and multinational consumer goods giant Protocol and Gamble aimed at helping and inspiring people to live more sustainable lives.

While the initiative, launched this morning in London, sounds laudable, it smells strongly of corporate greenwash.

The idea is that, by using products displaying the Future Friendly logo, shoppers will save energy, water or reduce waste. In tandem with the launch of the ‘Future Friendly’ brand logo, which will appear on certified products as of next week, the partnership announced the results of a survey on citizen’s attitudes towards sustainability and a ‘Future Friendly’ award, given to individuals who are heroes in encouraging sustainability on a local level.

The products that have thus far received the green stamp of approval include Ariel, Lenor, Fairy Liquid, Fairy Active Bursts and Flash, all, interestingly, manufactured by Proctor and Gamble. The criteria on which their green credentials are based seem a little dubious; for instance, Ariel is “asking the nation” to turn the dial down to 30 degrees to save up to 40% of the energy used per load, while Flash All Purpose Cleaner “enables you to do your cleaning with cold water”. So, it seems their sustainability criteria all rely on things that consumers have to do themselves while using the products, rather than the products themselves having ‘greener’ ingredients or packaging or being manufactured in some more efficient way.

Then comes the survey on consumers’ attitudes to sustainable living . Conducted by think tank The Future Laboratory, the results are based on a multiple choice questionnaire issued to 1,000 people in 12 UK counties this autumn. The main finding is that ‘green is the new norm’ and that environmental issues are galvanizing ’a new breed of citizen’ in the UK committed to living a sustainable lifestyle. It’s great to have individuals feeling friendly about the environment and about its future, but as is the case with so many of these surveys, the questions tend to polarize opinion and naturally frame opinion within the context of predefined questions. In relation to climate change, for example, 41% of respondents said individual action was the only way forward in solving the problem. I’d like to know what the alternatives were, but strangely there wasn’t a question relating to climate in the questionnaire, so that one remains a mystery.

Having said all of that, I think we should commend anything that encourages the public to lead more sustainable lives as do the ‘Future friendly’ awards. Developed by the partnership, they grant £10,000 to each of four winners to help fund their efforts to encourage sustainable living. But we should also bear in mind that to live sustainable lives, we’d have to each reduce our emissions by around 90%, something that requires a lot more than using fairy liquid…

Olive Heffernan


  1. Report this comment

    Timo Hämeranta said:

    Olive writes: “to live sustainable lives, we’d have to each reduce our emissions by around 90%”.

    Well, I have two simple considerations:

    – why leave unused the energy which currently is running 80 % of world economy and welfare, and

    – why not simply reduce the extra Co2 from the atmosphere?

    We already have the scientific breakthroughs done to capture CO2 directly from the air and convert it e.g. to biomass (urgently needed).

    Human Ingenuity has already solved the extra CO2 problem.

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