The Flemish consumer

Collectively we consume enormous quantities of metals, which can vary from small purchases such as a can of soft drink or a ballpoint pen to computers or a car. Apart from jewels, innumerable electronic devices contain gold, which is why the majority of consumers consume gold unknowingly. Also, many stock investors invest consciously or unconsciously in gold mining.

The Living Planet Report, published by WWF, ranked Belgium’s ecological footprint per capita as the fourth largest in the world. Our consumption patterns continue to grow and the day when all of the earth’s resources are exhausted is continually moved forward to an earlier date. If the world population lived as Belgians, by 2030 we would need two planets and by 2050 even three.

We often consume gold without being aware of it or knowing where it comes from and what the consequences of its exploitation are. However gold mining generally involves substantial environmental pollution, human rights violations and social conflict. The disadvantaged local population does not share in the profits made by mining companies. As it is the North that determines metal consumption to a large extent, we bear a great responsibility and a certain guilt for the problems caused in the South by mining. We can all adopt a more critical view concerning our behaviour as consumers and as investors. There are other possibilities. Consumers can influence the demand for more responsibly exploited and recycled gold to such a degree that the supply side will have to evolve towards more desirable solutions.