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India and Emerging Economies Feel the Most Environmental Guilt

By APICS Staff | 12 | 14 | July 17, 2012

According to a 17-nation survey conducted by the National Geographic Society, Indian consumers feel the most guilt about their environmental impact, despite having a smaller footprint than consumers in wealthier countries, the Associated Press reports. The study finds people in India to have the most sustainable behavior overall, followed by China and Brazil. The French rank last in Europe, and Americans rank last overall. In terms of guilt over environmental impact, India was followed closely by Mexico and China, with the United States, Australia, Germany, and Japan ranking toward the bottom.

“Consumers in these large emerging economies are the most likely to report that environmental problems are having a negative impact on their health today,” the authors of the study write.

Consumption patterns in food, transportation, and housing are among the factors examined by the survey. Part of India’s rating for the most sustainable behavior is due to its cultural taboo against eating beef. Housing also plays a role in India’s low environmental impact. Meanwhile, Brazilians say they are the most likely to purchase green energy, and Chinese consumers have the least environmental impact from transportation.

Consumers Valuing 'Made in America' Again

A recent trend among manufacturers is to bring operations back to the United States, a phenomenon known as nearshoring, and consumers are becoming increasingly attuned to where their goods are produced, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. The movement also is evident from commercials urging customers to buy goods made in America. “People now get that there is a direct connection between buying American ... and supporting the US economy,” says Steven Capozzola, a representative from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, an advocacy group for domestic production.

Since 2002, about 3.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost nationwide to other countries including China. Since then, wages in China have grown from 10 to 25 percent a year, according to several manufacturing trade groups. Shipping and fuel costs also are contributing factors to more expensive offshore production. Erin Walters, an account manager at Minnesota-based Element Electronics, says cost factors as well as the desire to bring jobs back were contributing factors to the company moving back to the United States.

Hurt by the recent recession, many customers wish to become more patriotic shoppers. Some pushes toward domestic purchasing include Chrysler’s 2011 Super Bowl with the tagline “imported from Detroit” and Google stamping its new wireless media player as “made in America.” Menards, a large hardware retailer, devotes a weekly sales circular to US-made goods several times a year.

According to Chad Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers, the main reason for the push toward domestic production is economics. “Yes, it’s important for us to be buying more products that are made in the US,” he says. However, he adds it’s also important to recognize the existence of a global economy and the need to explore different markets.

China to Become Importer of Rare Earths by 2014 

China currently is the world’s largest producer of rare-earth metals, components necessary for producing the latest electronics. It now is likely to become an importer of the industrial ingredients by 2014 as it boosts consumption rather than just exporting raw materials, Reuters reports. In addition, Chinese officials say they will curb exports to mitigate the environmental damage caused by decades of mining.

As part of its effort to build a more complete industrial supply chain, China now consumes 65 percent of the rare earths it produces compared to just 25 percent a decade ago. “By 2014 or 2015, China will probably be in a net import situation for certain rare earths,” says Mark Smith, chief executive officer of Molycorp, a US-based rare-earth mining company. “When the demand is there, that’s where the supply has to go.”

According to the United States Geological Survey, China owns about half of the world’s reserves of rare earths. However, Chinese officials say the figure is closer to 25 percent and providing 90 percent of the world’s supplies is unsustainable. “Simply put, we don’t think China can keep up with the demand for rare earths,” Smith says. “They are going to have to go to the outside.”ques.

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