Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Kyoto and societal expects

The media storm surrounding the Kyoto protocol, subsequent to Minister Baird’s announcement of a plan to reduce greenhouse gases, is a wonderful occasion for me to present the notion of societal expects.

A growing number people seem to surround their consumption with concerns based on fundamental values of social equity and environmental safeguard. For example, statistics from Ipsos indicate that, between 2000 and 2002, the proportion of French people «having heard about equitable trade» almost quadrupled, reaching 32% (Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Équitable). In the United Kingdom, the Fairtrade Foundation reports that in 2005 «50% of the adult population can now identify the certification mark, up from 25% in 2003 and 39% last year». In France, fair trade products are already very popular, to the point of finding whole sections offering such products in Leclerc, Carrefour and Champion supermarkets. Thus the appearance of the «Fairtrade» label to certify equitable trade products.

True consumer requirements, societal expects are involved in all sectors and are impossible to ignore by companies. For instance, low consumption vehicles to reduce environmental pollution harmful and preserve oil, a limited resource. Also think of raw material recycling such as paper, glass, etc. Societal expects also concern recovery of dangerous material, those of the information technology industry for instance, whose products contain toxic metals. The service sector is also affected; several stakeholders in tourism have ecological (ecotourism) and social (sustainable tourism) concerns. One can also mention cultural heritage conservation, a major stake for several town planners, architects and other stakeholders in urban planning.

The highly mediated outburst around the Kyoto protocol and the ensuing political hijacking demonstrate that expects, societal and other, can often be emotive rather than strictly rational. Minister Baird’s plan is rational; it proposes a balanced solution between economic and environmental constraints. I’m quite certain that Premier Harper’s government will do more when it CAN. Criticisms are more of an emotive and symbolic nature; Kyoto has become a symbol and the warhorse of irreducible environmentalists. This illustrates particularly well the fact that societal expects may be related to, indeed become themselves, symbolic or aspirational expects.

What do you think?

Is the alarmist talk of some people more emotive than rational?

Must the Kyoto protocol be a statement of principles that guide human activities or a set of constraining environmental norms?

Are you personally satisfied with the plan suggested last week by Minister Baird?

What other concrete and achievable measures would you like to propose to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases?

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