As the world gears up to present a united front against impending realities such as environmental degradation and global warming there are numerous opinions on the role that the public and private sectors have to play in driving positive change. However, these efforts need to be supported by civil society, which holds the power over transformation on a ground level.According to Mustafa Soylu, Chief Executive Officer of Defy Appliances, South Africans need to make a transition to ‘conscious consumerism’ by reconsidering their buying decisions and choosing brands and products that can visibly demonstrate their commitment to solving climate issues. “For a net-zero economy by 2050, energy efficiency is a must. Four product groups – electric motors, air conditioners, refrigerators, and lighting – account for 40% of global electricity consumption. Home appliances consume a significant amount of household energy. This forces us, and our industry, to take a hard look at ourselves, and reconsider our impact on the planet,” said Soylu, “As climate conditions worsen, people in developing countries will become more and more vulnerable to heat. With the growing middle-class, the demand for cooling products will only increase. Therefore, one of the most critical short-term actions is working on increasing the energy efficiency of the products even in countries where there is no current legislation that forces us to do so.” Soylu stated that decisive and collective action by all South Africans is the only solution to decreasing the country’s carbon footprint and making a meaningful contribution to the global movement against climate change. “As South Africans, we need to avoid relegating the responsibility of fighting global warming to big corporates and the government. Instead, we need to share responsibility and use education and awareness drives to filter these commitments down to the consumer level, which is where change can be seen in the most tangible way,” Soylu said.
A study by Euromonitor International suggests that 34% of South Africans indicated that they buy sustainably produced items and 49% make use of sustainable packaging. A further 32% (in comparison to 24% globally) said that they make donations to non-profit organisations that support and protect the environment. This shift to ‘conscious consumerism,’ is a trend that is slowly taking hold in South Africa, with over 70% of respondents indicating that they try to make a positive impact on the environment by recycling, saving water and reducing the use of single-use plastic.Soylu argued that taking actions that protect the environment have a dual benefit for South Africans who are faced with unique energy challenges. Loadshedding – which was implemented during the later months of 2007 – is still a reality more than a decade later. It has become clear that energy efficiency and its responsible use is a necessity for the millions of South Africans whose daily lives are affected by electricity blackouts. Furthermore, Defy is committed to helping consumers by reducing their utility bills and the government’s decarbonisation goals. “We are committed to mitigating the impact of climate change by ensuring that our production processes, our manufacturing methods and the materials we use are carbon efficient. This sustainable approach will underlie everything we do as a group moving forward. As we take action that is reflective of this commitment, we encourage consumers to ‘vote with their money’ by making conscious purchasing decisions that will contribute towards a more sustainable future,” he concludes.