As you sit around your breakfast table and procrastinate over the move you will have to consider making to get to work on time, you look for other distractions to stall the inevitable. Somehow you find yourself drawn to begin reading the back of the peanut butter jar, then the jam jar and before long you have moved to the large packet of ground coffee. What are you doing?! You notice a common thread here. Each of these products are made in wild and exotic locations, far, far away from the shores of Australia. Your mind starts to run wild with the thoughts of the adventures these humble products have had before they even reach your dining table. Peru, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, heck these breakfast staples have seen more of the world than you!
For a country 19 times bigger than Japan, one of the world’s leading manufacturing countries, Australia relies heavily on imported goods.
It seems demand has increased exponentially to offer a wide range of goods at a fraction of the cost. As so as a result many companies who operate in Australia have turned to seek cheaper, often lower-quality alternatives in far-off countries, where wage costs are minimal, materials are cheap and readily available and manufacturing and production standards are low. As a result, the production of goods within Australia has diminished, with comparable manufacturing levels as those during our early colonial times (Australian Innovation, 2010).
It is only becoming apparent to us now that this supply chain model is far from ideal… not only are we shipping Australian dollars offshore to these countries of origins but the environmental backlash is being felt by all of us. To ensure the aggressive growth in demand is met these countries manufacturing standards are often almost non-existent, with little emphasis on the environmental effects of production on this magnitude. We are now aware of startling statistics about the rapid loss of natural resources, air and water pollution, and an unfathomable increase in the extinction of native species.
Then there is the combined energy to produce and transport these goods to every corner of the globe which contributes to levels of greenhouse gas emission far greater than the world has never seen. An overwhelming 36.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide was pumped into the atmosphere in 2019 from industrial activities, a whopping 84% of the total carbon emissions from all human activity (Harvey, 2019). This rate of industrial development toward disposable imported goods is proving to be unsustainable for our planet and for our wellbeing.
But 2020 has made waves
It wasn’t until COVID hit in early 2020 that a sudden unexpected halt occurred to almost all air, land, and sea transport. Multi-conglomerate manufacturing companies ground to a complete standstill, and for a brief moment in time, mother nature could take a moment to breathe. It was in this short reprieve that the polluted skies opened over Beijing, the water cleared in Venice’s canals and wildlife was even spotted roaming the deserted cities of the world. This was merely a glimpse as to what the world might look like if some changes were made.
What has this meant for the big retailers?
Many of our favourite large retail brands have struggled in the wake of the pandemic. With such a huge disruption to regular operating producers and the closure of many of their international factories. So maybe, just maybe this is a chance to observe these difficulties as an opportunity, an opportunity for positive change.
As you sit reminiscing about your discovery at the breakfast table, it seems a bit bonkers that companies have had to source these regular household products from the opposite side of the world and at the cost of our environment. When you look at this vast country, a land of opportunities and a bounty of hard workers there are huge benefits to producing homegrown products for our consumption and it seems there are many of us thinking this way following the crisis that was 2020.
There is now encouragement from the Australian government to make the shift back to manufacturing on our home turf with various incentives proposed and infrastructure planned (Turner, 2020). To have products made in Australia would also mean they are produced in line with the government’s stringent environmental manufacturing standards, some of the most comprehensive in the world. Resulting in a high-quality product that hasn’t travelled the globe to get here AND ticks all the boxes environmentally.
So, there you have it, next time you are pondering the labels in the shopping isles, think twice about products from these wild and exotic locations and consider the true-blue Aussie alternatives. Not only will you be choosing a product that hasn’t contributed to the abundance of greenhouse gas emissions in adventures to arrive at a store near you but you will be purchasing a product this is made in a far more ethical and sustainable manner, in line with some of the world’s most rigorous environmental manufacturing standards. You can rest assured in knowing there a really good reason behind that green and gold logo on Australian-made!
Australian Innovation, 2010, Manufacturing in Australia; does it have a future? , < http://www.ausinnovation.org/publications/vision-2020/advancing-australia/manufacturing-in-australia-does-it-have-a-future.html >
Harvey, C, 2019, E&E News, Greenhouse gas emissions to set new record this year but rate of growth shrinks, < https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/12/greenhouse-gas-emissions-year-set-new-record-rate-growth-shrinks >
Turner, S, 2020, Financial Review, Funds managers optimistic about manufacturing push, < https://www.afr.com/markets/equity-markets/fund-managers-optimistic-about-manufacturing-push-20201001-p560vl >.