Whose responsibility is it to save the planet anyway?

Pretty much everyone is in agreement: we need to act to save the environment. But who should act, and what should they do? We're on the case!

By Fonds de solidarité FTQ

The experts keep hammering the message home and the rest of us agree: we need to act fast and in a concerted fashion to limit human impact on the environment. Easy to say, but how to do it and, most of all, who should lead the way? If as citizens, we're ready to do our part because we are conscious that we need to be part of the solution, but what about the government, businesses, artists and lobby groups? Wouldn't it be easier if they took care of it for us? With so many questions to address, we conducted an opinion poll among 1002 Quebecers in collaboration with Léger research.

Like the survey conducted by the Fonds de solidarité FTQ about the relationship between young people and their money, this year the company is looking at Quebecers and the environment, specifically how it affects their buying habits. From March 11 to 18, 2019, we conducted an opinion poll among 1002 Quebecers in collaboration with Léger research to get a better sense of their perceptions, their behaviour and their spending habits.

Whose responsibility is the environment anyway?

What should be the guiding principle behind protecting the environment?

So views are mixed! In first place are governments, followed closely by large corporations. The people themselves are a close third. So when it comes to the environment, we see things more as a team effort rather than pinning the burden on any one particular group.

37% of respondents think that activities leading to improvement in environmental quality should be the government’s responsibility, 34% think large corporations should lead the way, 23% the people themselves and 1% think artists should shoulder the burden.

Fine, but now that we know the future of the planet rests on their shoulders, what can we expect from these three groups?

The people

1 person in 4 sees him or herself as a key agent of change.

99% of Quebecers do small, everyday things to save energy and reduce waste and 91% think that these small actions help them limit their impact on the environment. Moreover, 36% of us say we've changed our habits considerably to do so, so that's something we can be proud of!

Speaking of those little things, what are we doing exactly?

When it comes to the effort put into recycling, how much is too much?

58% of people responded that they recycle everything, 18% say it’s not always clear what’s recyclable or not, 12% say they recycle as long as they don’t have to wash items first, 9% as long as they don’t have to sort items, and 3% as long as they don’t have to carry the recycling to the curb.

Yogurt containers, plastic bags, milk cartons… what exactly should you put in the recycling bin? The majority of people recycle everything, even if they're not sure about something! If you need to figure out exactly what goes in the bin, the RECYC-QuébecAttention, this link will open a new tab. Web site [in French] is always a good source of information. Otherwise, keep in mind this rule of thumb: the majority of containers and packaging, printed matter and newspapers are recyclable.

Do they compost?

Over half of Quebecers polled say they don't compost. It's a start, but we have a ways to go if you consider that 44% of household waste is organic waste, according to RECYC-Québec... but it's also explained by the fact that compostable materials collection is only offered in some Quebec municipalities. 

Over half of Quebecers polled say they don't compost. It's a start, but we have a ways to go if you consider that 44% of household waste is organic waste, according to RECYC-Québec... but it's also explained by the fact that compostable materials collection is only offered in some Quebec municipalities.

On the transportation side, how do Quebecers get around?

52% of people do not compost and 5% of them don’t because they don't like the smell. 48% of people do compost.

What is their main motivation for owning a car?


93 % of Quebec households have at least one vehicle.


Quebecers are still very attached to their cars. Their main reasons? Their practical side, the freedom they offer and the necessity of getting to work somehow. Even if it's true that Quebec is one very big place and getting around via public transport isn't always feasible, the fact is opting for alternative and active transportation reduces our environmental footprint.


People think businesses should also take measures to reduce their impact.


84 % of people surveyed think that green initiatives taken by business make a difference.


And, for the same quality and price, 78% of Quebecers will choose an ecoresponsible company over its less green competitor. So companies have everything to gain by promoting their green practices.

On the other hand, do we suspect a case of greenwashing, the fraudulent practice where companies portray themselves as greener than they actually are?

Are companies that act green hypocrites?

44% of people disagree with the idea that these companies are hypocrites, 42% agree and 14% don’t know.

When it comes to ecoresponsibility, it isn't always easy to tell the truth from the lie… and that complicates matters for the consumer!

But Quebecers think that sustainable development is simply the flavour of the month, or a buzzword?

Maybe it's because we hear it all the time these days, but people think the term sustainable development is used rather too loosely. It might be worthwhile to put its three parts into perspective: the environment, economic development and the social aspect.

61% agree that sustainable development is just a trendy word, 28% disagree and 11% don’t know.


A warning to all elected officials and candidates in the upcoming elections, the people are counting on you to pass legislation that will ensure protection of our environment!

90 % of Quebecers are of the opinion that stricter policies should be adopted by governments regarding the environment.

Should the government give incentives like tax credits, subsidies, loan guaranties, etc., to companies that pollute, even if they create a lot of jobs?

79% of respondents do not agree, 17% agree and 4% don’t know.

A company pollutes, but it makes a big contribution to the economy? Clearly, the majority of people aren't too keen on the idea of supporting companies that aren't ecoresponsible.

We asked people to try a little experiment: put yourself in the Prime Minister's shoes when it's time to make an important decision related to protecting the environment!

Some background: you are Prime Minister and the environmental situation has reached a breaking point. You need to take a drastic green measure, effective immediately, even if this will have severe consequences. What do you do?

  • Levy severe sanctions against a polluting company, even if that means the company has to shut down. (28%)
  • Make recycling and composting mandatory for citizens and businesses. Failure to comply leads to stiff fines, even prison time in the case of repeat offenders. (27%)
  • Triple taxes on polluting products (fuels, plastics, etc.) to incite people to use less of them. (16%)
  • Declare that all transportation, including personal automobiles, must be electric as of now. (8%)
  • Put an immediate end to all exploitation of forests. (7%)
  • Make public transit mandatory unless you have an exemption. (3%)
  • Ban all processing of animal products (e.g.: beef, pork) by agri-food companies. (2%)
  • None of the above. (9%)

Views are mixed on this topic.

Our relationship with the environment has evolved tremendously over the past few years: we live greener and we hold environmental initiatives in higher regard.

As a citizen, we look for greater leadership and more concrete action on the part of governments and businesses. We want stricter laws on the part of governments and greater accountability for businesses, as well as wider availability of ecoresponsible products.

Which all goes to show that protecting the environment is a team effort!

Learn more about Quebecers' green lifestyle habits

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