Moving towards Sustainable Consumption in Indonesia through Increased Consumer Information
The largest economy in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, has charted impressive economic growth since overcoming the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Today, Indonesia is an emerging middle-income country that has reached the level of 16th largest economy in the world and fourth most populous nation.1 While fast economic growth in Indonesia has lifted millions out of poverty, rapid urbanization and industrialization, rising consumption, and population growth have put huge pressures on natural resources and the societal fabric. Current economic progress is increasingly threatened by the risks of environmental degradation and rising resource scarcity, societal inequality, and the impacts of global climate change.2
The issue of rising consumption is a common one faced by many emerging economies in Asia. The topic of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) emerged for the first time on the global development agenda in 1992 with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro and the international recognition that the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment was unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. Many Asian countries, including Indonesia, have since started to transition towards low-carbon, green growth strategies to address the challenges associated with rising consumption while maintaining opportunities for economic development and employment increase.
Twenty years later at the 2012 Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Heads of State agreed to accelerate the shift towards SCP by adopting the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP). The 10YFP now has six programmes, including one on Consumer Information for Sustainable Consumption and Production (CI-SCP) to support the provision of quality information on goods and services and the identification and implementation of the most effective strategies to engage consumers in sustainable consumption.
“Everyone, in every sector and every region, is a consumer. We all, therefore, have a stake and a key role to play in the transition towards sustainable consumption and production patterns and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. For everyone to fulfil this role to the best of their ability, everyone must be engaged and informed on the opportunities available to act sustainably in their purchasing and consumption choices and daily behaviour, and to be able to make demands of the businesses and governments that provide or support these choices.” Bettina Heller, Associate Programme Officer, UN Environment - Economy Division
Consumer information is key to achieving SCP as it enables consumers to make responsible choices when purchasing goods and services, using them and taking decisions at the end of their life. Consumer information also plays an important role in awareness raising and empowering consumers to take informed choices. The 10YFP Consumer Information Programme is engaging a wide range of stakeholders including consumer associations, businesses, retailers and governments in a collaborative process for joint action. By exchanging and learning from each other, all of these actors can scale up effective practices to address today’s environmental, social and economic challenges.
Through the 10YFP Consumer Information Programme, Indonesia is already positioning itself as an international leader in sustainable consumption. Indeed, Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) is co-leading the Programme’s coordination desk through the non-governmental organization Yayasan Pembangunan Berkelanjutan (YPB). The other co-leads are Germany through the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and Consumers International, a world federation of consumer groups.
In order to further strengthen Indonesia’s regional leadership in consumer information and accelerate the shift towards SCP, the EU SWITCH-Asia Programme partnered with the 10YFP CI-SCP to scale up national and global activities in this thematic area in Indonesia. Through its Regional Policy Support Component, the EU SWITCH-Asia Programme seeks to create an enabling policy environment in Asian countries such as Indonesia to achieve SCP and the implementation of the 10YFP (www.SWITCH-Asia.eu). In collaboration with YPB, they have organized a series of workshops and trainings to build capacity, support policy advocacy and strengthen consumer information in Indonesia. This collaboration has been developed as a response to a request from the Indonesian MoEF to conduct national policy research, capacity building and advocacy that will strengthen consumer information in Indonesia.
The first workshop of the series was held on August 8 in Jakarta, Indonesia. It focussed on strengthening Indonesia's labels and guidelines for consumer information and had as its objective to identify a pilot sector in which subsequent research activities and other workshops would focus. During this workshop, Indonesian government agencies shared lessons learned on the development and implementation of eco-labels to take stock of existing initiatives in each sector and identify gaps to be addressed going forward. At the end of the workshop, the plastics sector was designated to pilot the initiative.
Subsequently, two full-day technical workshops on eco-labelling were held on October 3rd and 4th in Jakarta to enhance the understanding of public and private sector representatives on the different types of environmental labels, including type 1 labels (eco-labels according to ISO 14024 classification). Throughout these sessions, participants learned about existing labels in Indonesia and other countries, including long established eco-labelling schemes from Europe, such as the German Blue Angel or the EU Ecolabel.
Finally, on October 24th and 25th, workshops were held with supply chain stakeholders, consumers and retailers in the plastics sector, specifically plastic shopping bag, to identify priority areas for awareness raising as well as strategies and policy actions for scaling up best practices. During the workshops, the plastic shopping bag supply chain was mapped (Figure 1) to develop policy recommendations for the Directorate General of Waste Management and the Centre for Environmental and Forestry Standardization of the MoEF.
These workshops revealed that the labelling system in Indonesia is confusing for consumers, producers and procurement officers alike with a wide range of labels already present and more being developed each year. Moving forward, a higher emphasis will need to be placed on harmonising national and international standards and labels, linking them to sustainable public procurement and formalising sustainable purchasing through laws and regulations. In the plastics sector, the existing regulation on plastic shopping bags will need to be reviewed to ensure proper enforcement of plastic shopping bag fees and penalties. Furthermore, education and awareness among consumers and retailers will have to be raised through campaigns to fuel the demand for alternatives to plastic bags targeting in particular informal sectors such as community markets who still make wide use of plastic shopping bags.
These findings will feed substantively into the ongoing work of the 10YFP CI-SCP and help align the engagement of the CI-SCP in the country and region for the upcoming year. Furthermore, through this collaboration, the representation of the CI-SCP in Indonesia was enhanced and Indonesia’s participation as a co-lead of the CI-SCP was strengthened.
“To implement the 10YFP on a national level, MoEF and Indonesian development agencies have developed a number of ‘quick wins’, one of them being the ‘national implementation plan’ for the CI-SCP. Going forward, Indonesia plans to establish a national coalition involving the MoEF, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, the YPB, the Indonesian Consumer Organization and others. Besides strengthening stakeholder collaboration, Indonesia will soon strengthen SCP implementation on the ground through community-based actions in public facilities, where consumer information and practical education will be key instruments for intervention. We believe that the community is ready for a change, towards better quality of life." Mr. Noer Adi Wardojo, Head of Centre for Environmental and Forestry Standardization of the MoEF
Through its active involvement in the 10YFP CI-SCP, Indonesia has the potential to be a leader in the region and a pilot case for other countries in the region to build upon.