Many people will be surprised to know how much interest there was about green consumerism in the late 80s and early 1990s. It was kicked off by the publication of The Green Consumer Guide, co-authored by myself and John Elkington, in 1988. The book had 11 print runs in the first month, shot to the top of the non-fiction best-seller list and eventually sold over 1 million copies worldwide. We followed it with The Green Consumer’s Supermarket Shopping Guide, published in 1989 and then The Young Green Consumer Guide in 1992.
This compilation includes clips from TV-am, Anne Diamond, Ulrika Johnson (when she was a weather girl), Kilroy, Richard & Judy’s This morning programme, The Time and the Place and even BBC and ITV news. There’s also a snippet from Margaret Thatcher and her speech saying that ‘We are not merely friends of the Earth but its guardians for generations to come’! It’s exciting to remember how much attention green consumerism got – and my role in that. It’s rather weird to see my younger self – over 30 years ago – talking about it all. It’s great that this initiative really did kick start so many companies into putting environmental issues on their agenda – and reporting on it. It’s brilliant that sustainability is now part of main-stream thinking as it wasn’t then.
However, it’s terrible that the world hasn’t done and isn’t doing nearly enough. The climate crisis is more frightening than ever. The rainforests continue to be destroyed at an alarming rate – worst years ever. Uncontrolled fires rage across the planet – even in areas where they’ve never really taken hold before, like Siberia. Our oceans are drowning in a sea of plastic and over-fishing is worse than ever. We’ve lost over 60% of biodiversity since 1970… Help…
Green consumerism still has a part to play. But don’t be misled into thinking that simply recycling or even saving energy is nearly enough. And we need to make sure that business as usual but a little bit greener is not sufficient. This is not simply about minimising our impact on the environment it’s about making a positive difference. Let’s not be satisfied by companies saying they’ll go climate neutral – what we want is climate positive. Businesses need to be creating visions for a sustainable world and focus on how to achieve it.
Our role in that is to support the most innovative and sustainable businesses, encourage others to improve on what they’re doing and make sure that the eco-villains don’t have a license to operate. We can do this as consumers, investors, educators and ordinary citizens. I still believe that as individuals we do have the power to make a difference.