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NEWSGreen groups target Singapore consumers with ‘We breathe what we buy’ campaign to fight haze

By Mumbrella Asia, ROBIN HICKS

Environmental group WWF has launched a campaign with other NGOs in Singapore to raise awareness of the consumer’s role in the haze, an annual air quality problem caused by burning forests in Malaysia and Indonesia that are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations.

The haze is caused mainly as a result in the demand for products made from palm oil, such as lipsticks, toothpaste, pizza and ice cream, that are made by multinational companies with regional bases in Singapore. More than half of the products typically found in a supermarket contain palm oil.

The ‘We breathe what we buy’ campaign, which sees WWF team up with People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze) and Singapore Institute of International Affairs, aims to gain 50,000 pledges from Singaporeans to buy products made from sustainable sources. The campaign website is

The campaign includes a TV and outdoor element. Billboards look from a distance like lipstick, pizza or toothpaste, but close up reveal burning forests. The digital version of this poster below is to run at bus stops around Singapore.

The work was by Dentsu Mobius.

Video ads, which take a comical look at what life would be like for Singaporeans who must wear air filtration masks all the time, were devised in-house by WWF. One of four ads shows a couple trying to kiss while wearing masks.

Another shows a lady trying to blow out birthday cake candles while wearing a mask.

A third film shows a man having problems eating while wearing a mask.

A final video shows two ladies failing to communicate because their both wearing masks.

The NGO is currently looking for a sponsor to pay for media to run the ads on national TV in Singapore.

Singapore is where the regional headquarters of many palm oil-using companies such as Nestle, Unilever and Procter & Gamble are located.

Tan Yihan, co-founder of the People’s Movement to Stop Haze, said at a press conference in Singapore earlier today: “It’s very hard for consumers to discern which companies and products use certified sustainable palm oil. So we want this campaign to open companies’ eyes to the demand from consumers for sustainably sourced products.”

WWF gauges the progress of companies such as Unilever and P&G by using a score card and plans to introduce a shopping guide to help consumers choose environmentally friendly toothpaste, shampoo or biscuits.

Local celebrities and influencers including Benjamin Kheng and Jasper Lai are supporting the movement, which is to use on-ground talks in schools and universities and a roadshow to spread the word locally. Company 3M has donated thousands of air filtration masks to be given away to people who take the pledged.

“This requires more than government intervention. It requires power of us pledging with our wallets to solve problem,” said Elaine Tan, CEO of WWF Singapore.

The haze has been around in Singapore for four decades, the worst two years being 1997 and 2013. In 2013, Adidas used the haze as a marketing opportunity, offering Singaporeans free one-day gym passes at health club True Fitness so they can exercise in clean air-conditioned air – as long as they owned a piece of adidas clothing.

Biscuit brand Oreo posted an image of a gas mask with the words ‘Breathe sweet, Singapore’ on its Facebook page. Ironically, Oreo biscuits, which are made by Mondelez International, contain palm oil.

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