John Lewis will be showing the lifetime electricity costs on products that it sells from next year. The plan is part of a pilot study into peoples’ behaviour, within the Government’s Energy Efficiency Strategy. This follows similar lines to PUMA, which recently incorporated environmental costs into its profit and loss reports, to demonstrate the true cost of producing, wearing and discarding its shoe and clothing range.
This got me thinking into how effective this will really be. When buying electrical goods consumers not only consider functionality and design they also take into account the brand name. Up to now very few would look at the running costs of having the product plugged in day and night for its lifetime, whether it was in use or not. Would you choose a different product based on lower electricity running costs? How many of us really look at the eco labels? Brand recognition is more than likely to get first preference.
Beyond this how many of us really know the real cost of products? The costs of different materials, many unseen unless the product is pulled apart, within it. The cost of extracting these raw materials, the cost on the environment or the cost of labour? At a recent RSA event discussing ways to develop a circular economy, by reusing existing materials in the supply chain, very few delegates knew the real cost of materials inside a mobile phone. A product that most of us are unwilling to leave the house with each morning.
Do we know the true costs of the products we buy?
Improving energy efficiency is essential and there are simple measures that householders and businesses can easily adopt, as I’ve mentioned before. But this has to be part of changing behaviour in a wider sense in order to create a sustainable, low-carbon economy. We need greater understanding about what lies behind the products and services we buy and use, the stuff we don’t necessarily see or think about but still impacts on the world around us. We need the Government to stop moving the goal posts on feed-in tariffs and its approach to renewable technologies.
We need clarity and consistency to create a credible alternative to the business as usual approach.