[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazilian consumers came out on top for their awareness and understanding of both biodiversity and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), according to the results of a survey in eight countries released last week (19 May) in São Paulo.
The survey has been carried out by the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT), based in the Netherlands, every year since 2009. This year's survey involved 8,000 consumers — 1,000 each from Brazil, France, Germany, India, Peru, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Almost all the Brazilians (97 per cent) said that they have heard about biodiversity, followed by consumers in France (95 per cent) and Switzerland (83 per cent). In Peru and India the scores were significantly lower: 52 and 19 per cent respectively.
While half of the Brazilians correctly defined biodiversity, only seven per cent of the Peruvians and nobody in India did so.
On average, across all polled countries, 19 per cent of the interviewees had heard about Rio+20. The percentages were: 59 in Brazil; ten in India; and four in Peru.
Western nations also scored low in awareness of Rio+20, with Germany at 13 per cent, and the United Kingdom and the United States both at 11 per cent.
"It seems that in Brazil, television is making the difference in spreading the word on biodiversity and related issues," Cristiane de Moraes, UEBT representative in Brazil told SciDev.Net.
She highlighted the role of advertising, with several companies — from cosmetics manufacturers to banks — using biodiversity as a strategy for selling their products.
Yurij Castelfranchi, an expert in public perception at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, agreed that the mass media has played an important role in increasing the awareness of biodiversity and related issues, such as Rio+20, in Brazil. But he added that political and cultural issues may have also affected the perception of these issues in Brazil.
Both Moraes and Castelfranchi, however, said the way the interviewees were selected (randomly among cosmetic and food consumers) and the way they were interviewed (through the Internet, except in India and Peru, which used face-to-face interviews and phone calls) should be taken into account when drawing conclusions from the survey.
"It is possible that people interviewed in Brazil are from social sectors with higher purchasing power and educational level," Castelfranchi warned.
Another survey launched this month by the National Confederation of the Industry Brazil, showed that 94 per cent of Brazilians are concerned about the environment.