Council must 'shift to social benefits'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 4:06am

It's time for the Consumer Council to move on from promoting smart buys to focus on sustainability and ethics, according to its outgoing deputy head.

"Throughout the years, the council's focus has been teaching people how to be smart consumers by comparing prices and product quality," said Wendy Lam Yuen-mui, the council's deputy chief executive, whose term ends next month. "But the whole community has become better educated, and consumers are now looking for more than just a bargain.

"They want to know about the social responsibility of product and service providers," Lam said in a recent interview. "This includes environmental concerns about manufacturing and fair-trade practices."

Consumer pressure can force suppliers to adopt more socially conscious business practices, which in turn will help improve business ethics, she said.

"The Consumer Council is playing a leading role in promoting this trend by the information we circulate. For instance, we have started to add more environmental elements to our information releases about products - such as comparing their energy-saving features or environmental hazards. We want to keep this momentum going."

In her time at the council, Lam was assigned to improve its administration and management. She also worked on improving consumer access to the council's information, such as adding screen-reading software to its website for visually impaired people.

Before joining the council, Lam worked for commercial and public bodies, including a major property agency and the Independent Commission Against Corruption, mainly handling public communication and public education. She is a former director of arts promotion and corporate affairs at the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

Now Lam hopes to revisit a long-held aspiration to be a social worker. "It was my dream during childhood to become a social worker, but I ended up studying business at university.

"During my next 10-odd years before retirement, I would like to fulfil my dream - a job related to social work."