Tension around sustainability

There is a number of growing tensions and emerging paradoxes in the world surrounding sustainability. One in the US at the moment revolves around some basic food staples – principally those that use corn as an ingredient.

The US is currently experiencing growing interest and support for the production of corn based ethanol because;

– It promises a reduction in the dependence of petroleum resources from other nations.
– There is a perception that it will reduce carbon emissions from driving.

Trouble is, the use of corn for the production of ethanol is reducing supply for use in food production, causing a rise in the price of some food products. Food manufacturers are now competing for their raw ingredient with ethanol manufacturers and the increased prices they have to pay are finding their way to shoppers.

Hence the tension. Wherever you stand on the corn based ethanol issue, it’s difficult to ignore the pull, that will only increase, between what we need and want to buy as shoppers and the impacts and effects of our purchases in other areas. Where will the tipping point come? When will the realization that the cost of our weekly food shop is rising because of our growing thirst for cleaner cars? How, as shoppers and consumers, are we to balance these tensions?

Our Shopper Culture Study looked at the issue of sustainability and we concluded that, while there is growing awareness of the need to be more responsible, it is not yet a mainstream issue in the US.

But, will the increase in basic food staples start to raise the consciousness of such effects with US shoppers?

How much does it have to hurt the purse or wallet each week for people to start asking questions?

What impact will it start to have on other nations (like Mexico) if the US starts to take the bulk of corn production (corn is of course the base of tortillas, a basic food staple in Mexico). What impact will US consumption patterns have on other cultures?

A development that we will be keeping an eye on in the coming months and years.