Sustainability Blog

World Consumer Rights Day Contributes to Sustainability

By Apurva Gosalia - Mar 15, 2022

Today is World Consumer Rights Day, a day of action organized by the independent non-profit consumer protection organization Consumers International. The aim of WCRD is to raise public awareness of consumer issues. 

WCRD has been celebrated every March 15 since 1983 and traces its origins to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who asked Congress to ratify three basic consumer rights on this day in 1962. He urged for the rights to be protected from deceptive or misleading advertising and labelling; to be protected from dangerous or ineffective drugs; and to choose from a variety of products with fair market prices.

The first and third of President Kennedy’s rights connect directly with sustainability, as they can relate to greenwashing and the supply chain law. 

This year, the focus of WCRD is on fair digital finance associated with the first ever Fair Digital Finance Forum this week, with “Digital Finance is Sustainable” on Friday as the closing topic.

Sidebar: Past WCRDs globally and nationally have referred to sustainability directly or indirectly as a motto. In 2006, the global theme was Energy – Sustainable access for all. In 2008, the call in Germany was on the public to take part in the campaign Save electricity, save your account and the climate. And in the past two years, the worldwide focus was fully on sustainable consumption with the central themes being The Sustainable Consumer in 2020 and Tackling Plastic Pollution in 2021.

As we celebrate WCRD today, it is timely to state that consumers play an important role in promoting the sustainable consumption agenda. Consumers can indeed be active market players when they are informed of their rights and stand ready to enforce them. Empowered consumers can encourage business innovation, investment and competition, driving sustainable production and consumption.

The United Nations has continuously raised the role of consumers in the context of protecting the environment and achieving development that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection serve as the most important soft-law mechanism that helps countries formulate and implement laws on sustainable consumption. They accord responsibility to all players including governments, civil society, international organizations, consumer organizations and “informed consumers” who influence actions taken by all other stakeholders.

Of the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals, goal 12 is “Responsible Consumption and Production.” This goal details the responsibilities of and actions to be taken by various stakeholders, including governments, consumers and businesses. This also directly relates to the lubricants industry, where more and more players are commiting to the 17 SDGs, and goal number 12 is among the top three prioritized SDGs, alongside goals 9 “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” and 13 “Climate Action.”

The European Ecolabel for Lubricants with its official EU mark for greener products dubbed “the flower,” emphasizes its use on lubricant products to meet consumer needs as guide to identify environmental performers in the lubricant market.

Consumer demand can encourage businesses to design sustainable products. In addition, informed consumers who know their rights and obligations, and are able to stand for them, can be vigilant when it comes to products with green and eco labels. Consumers should first read, understand and interpret labels before choosing to buy and should complain in case of misleading or false claims. 

Businesses should comply with consumer information obligations and establish mechanisms to monitor consumer feedback. Ultimately, sustainable consumption can only be achieved through the coordination and joint efforts of all relevant stakeholders.


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