INDUSTRY will become more environmentally conscious, but the only question is when, according to Mr David Wheeler, chief environmentalist for the Body Shop, and former adviser to the British Labour Party on green issues. During a recent visit to Hongkong, he said: ''It is blindly obvious that we need to be far more efficient in our use of resources and, perhaps above all, energy resources. ''But there is a difficulty hidden is this simple point,'' he added. Dr Wheeler said that modern management sought to minimise inefficiences and waste to maximise profitability. Actions that were environmentally beneficial would appear on the balance sheet as expenditures, not reduced operating costs, Mr Wheeler said. ''What is needed is government action. Legislation is required to create a system of incentives and punishments for industry. ''I know this is a very simple carrot and stick argument, but it would work,'' he said. ''The stick would be far tougher legislation to guarantee the principle of the polluter pays for cleaning up after accidents or spillages. ''The carrot would be tax breaks for environmentally sound industrial practices. These could include cutting electricity consumption on a pre-planed scale, and running a waste management system on the reduce, re-use, recycle principle,'' he said. The Body Shop has voluntarily carried out its own environmental studies. In Hongkong, copies of a do-it-yourself (DIY) environmental audit are available at the eight Body Shop branches in return for a donation to cover production costs. Intended only as a first step for companies that have not previously considered environmental issues, the DIY audit covers eight topics.