If manufacturing is about making a profit, the difference between sales price and cost - then quality is a cost. Mathematically, therefore, reducing quality increases gain. However, something incredible has happened over the last two generations of manufacturing - the customer who once expected quality now expects low price and forgot that quality costs.

Manufacturers have been telling customers both that they can have quality and price, a sales argument which says that 'my low-cost item is high quality', and yet that you cannot have quality and price, which, if the customer still buys your product, precludes him from expecting anything much.

So now we expect both low price and high quality. These people in particular influence the attitudes of manufacturers who will do anything to reduce quality, increase profit and sell goods which make the customer think that they have the best of both worlds.

Customers believe that they must buy the goods because they are excellent and low-cost, and yet complain of the short product lifespan. We are told not to expect quality at that cost. We have thus been conditioned to expect short product lifespans. Items are updated regularly, particularly when it comes to technology, the old is obsolete, and it is only reasonable to replace items on a regular basis, whether it be cars or stereos.

This mentality is growth - upon which economists base their predictions. Buying more, and the customer-consumer is expected and hopes to purchase more and more.

We try to keep up with the Joneses, the feeling of power etc., but customers cannot afford to buy items merely to replace them unless their incomes are both essential and ever-increasing, since we ultimately replace all things.

The term consumer must be banned when referring to customers. The extension of a consumer is a manufacturing-led dream, which equates the purchaser with the saviour of the economy since as long as he consumes, buys and destroys.

The future of manufacturing is thus assured since the manufacturer knows that whatever he produces will be replaced in the future, whether it be white goods, electronics, cars or furniture. The consumer, therefore, is responsible for the consumption of the planet's resources since anything that he buys will consume the planet's resources. Despite the lip service given by industry to the environmental lobby, nothing has zero impact.

Environmental policy must change the mentalities of those who spend their money, by appealing to them to place their financial resources in places which respect the environment and look for quality, durability, use of recyclable materials and the favouring of low energy production processes.

Today, the customer cannot make informed choices on these issues since they do not have the necessary information. The only perception is cost, and there is some perception that low-cost means low energy. Not so. Low-cost today means low quality and high volume.

What could technology and progress provide to reduce consumption? The first is to measure the energy consumption of production processes, just as we now have started to measure .energy consumption of white goods and houses.

The A to F eco-labels must include the end to end energy consumption of the whole supply chain from raw materials to recycling so that customers can choose the goods which have the lowest impact on the planet. There is, undoubtedly, a whole raft of new jobs to be created for people required to measure, audit, report on energy consumption in the supply chain.