Consumers urged to help rein in 'unruly' polluters

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 February, 2010, 12:00am

Mainland environmentalists have taken on the fight against big polluters by directly appealing to consumers not to buy products made by those manufacturers.

An open letter jointly issued yesterday by 34 mainland environmental non-governmental organisations lists 19 food, beverage, car and electronics brands produced by 21 companies, which they say should be blacklisted. 'China needs consumers to use their purchasing power to stop pollution,' it said.

The Green Consumer Choice campaign began three years ago to enlist public support in the country's uphill battle against pollution.

'Consumers may encourage companies to save energy and cut emissions by examining the products manufactured by non-compliant factories. This is consumers' green choice,' the letter stated.

The appeal comes amid widespread disappointment over the government's anti-pollution drive, which environmentalists said had yet to control the degradation across the mainland.

Despite Beijing's claims of progress in cutting water and air pollution, billed as the country's chief contribution to the global fight against climate change, the mainland has seen an increasing number of oil spills, toxic metal leaks and subsequent disputes and demonstrations.

Ma Jun, of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said that although mainland consumers suffered from pollution, they had yet to use their increasing sway to help rein in unruly polluters.

'This lack of consumer reaction sends polluting companies a distorted market signal, implicitly encouraging them to lower their environmental standards to gain market share,' he said. 'It is essential to encourage the public to use their numbers to influence polluting companies.'

The list includes subsidiaries of multinationals as well as producers of some of the best known brands, such as telecommunications giant Motorola, electronics manufacturer Philips, Tsingtao beer, Mengniu Dairy and Shineway meat products.

Ma, a key organiser of the campaign, said his group was not against any particular brands or companies.

The firms were selected from hundreds of polluting factory companies listed on the China Water Pollution Map, a website run by Ma, which collected information from environmental authorities and mainland media reports.

'We have chosen some big, well known enterprises to raise more public attention and push forward environmentally friendly consumption,' he said.

The letter stated the companies had been targeted because they violated mainland environmental laws in the past two years in discharging hazardous pollutants.

The campaign also called on domestic and international enterprises to make environmental information, such as the discharging of key pollutants, more transparent.

More than 20 green NGOs issued a similar appeal in 2007, urging the public to avoid buying more than 20 brands of food, cars and electronic goods.

'Our previous campaign achieved results, and we received positive feedback from blacklisted companies, which emphasised consumers' influence on enterprises,' Ma said.

The campaign has been praised by the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, the country's top watchdog, as a timely move in helping the government track down polluting firms.

Ma said the institute would update its list every few months.