Getting there the Sustainable Way: "Sustainable Weeks" in Austria

In 2004, from September 15 through October 15, the first "Sustainable Weeks" were held all over Austria. This fall again, the food trade, drug, health, hygiene and beauty retail chains, the construction materials trade, and - for the first time this year - electrical retailers have jointly declared themselves willing to target environmentally benign, regionally-produced, and fair-traded products in their self-advertising. Instead of price dumping and tough competition, the focus is on joint objectives such as fair trade, doing business regionally, organic products, saving on resources, and raising awareness.

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 To act sustainably means to shape one's way of living and doing business in a way that meets the needs of the generations living today without limiting those of the generations to come. It thus includes nature and climate protection; social concerns such as securing education, work, fundamental rights and incomes; as well as fostering lasting economic success. Social injustice and global environmental destruction are threats to a lastingly successful economy, and reduce the opportunities available to future generations. Everyone is challenged, in politics, business, and the population at large.


The "Sustainable Weeks" Initiative was called into being by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment, and Water Management (BMLFUW), in cooperation with retailers, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, and individual Federal Provinces. This year, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs joined the initiative. The declared goal of the "Sustainable Weeks" is to raise consumer awareness among the general public, and thus to enhance the sale of sustainable products. In 2004, the "Sustainable Weeks" were held in 10 retail chains with 17 distribution lines, and were publicized in about 200 media reports, 30 editions of retail chain flyers with a total circulation of 32 million, and in the 6,890 branches of the participating retail chains.


"We succeeded for the first time in winning the support of Austrian trade chains for a joint action. Among the participants in the areas of food trade and health, hygiene and beauty retailers are: Rewe (Billa, Merkur and Bipa), Spar, Zielpunkt, ADEG, ZEV/Nah& Frisch, MPREIS and dm; in the area of construction materials and electrical retailers: OBI, Lagerhaus, Hagebau/ÖBAU and Cosmos, as well as independent merchants," says the Austrian Federal Minister for Environment, Erwin Pröll, who coordinates SD policy within the Austrian Federal Government.


The participants jointly select issues such as organic products, fair trade, regional marketing, construction and living, as well as recycling, and target them in their self-advertisement. From September 15 to October 15, public and economic interest as well as awareness were being generated and raised: Consumers who buy products from organic farming protect themselves and their environment. As Federal Minister Josef Pröll puts it, "Consumers who opt for putting regional, domestic quality into their shopping baskets help reduce the traffic and transport load, secure jobs, and thus support sound economic development in the rural regions."


 In cooperation with the participating trade chains, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment, and Water Management developed the word-image-trademark "Getting there. The Sustainable Way." ("Das bringt's. Nachhaltig."), which is being used exclusively as an eye-catching advertisement for the period of the "Sustainable Weeks." It is neither meant to replace nor to validate existing eco-labels. The labelling is not on individual products, but on all advertisement tools and posters, as well as on the shelves of the respective branches and stores. The consumers' attention is being drawn to sustainable products that are frequently overlooked as a consequence of the vast array of products. Among these are products from organic farming, regional marketing, fair trade, recycling, as well as items produced with as little harm to the environment as possible and/or products that help save energy.


 "It is ultimately the consumer who makes the decision, which is why it is important to raise awareness of sustainability and to support products that set positive trends. Buying products from rural regions, for example, shortens transport distances, secures jobs in processing, and thus strengthens the economies of the rural regions. Our goal is to inform the population and thus to win support for conscious and targeted shopping. Over the coming years, we plan to invite further sectors such as electronics and tourism to participate in the "Sustainable Weeks." Only if we make an effort to secure sustainable natural and social spheres for everyone, will we be able to make a significant contribution to a safe future for all of us," emphasized Christoph Leitl, President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber.

For further information:

Barbara Schmon
Division II/3
Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management
Stubenbastei 5
A-1010 Vienna

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