WORLD CONSUMER RIGHTS DAY

The sustainable consumer

Climate change is primarily driven by consumption habits.

In Summary
  • The consumer remains the driver of production sometimes unknowingly, which can be dangerous.
  • Consumers have developed fatigue in following up on promises to improve their environment and have left nature to take its course.
Products displayed at a supermarket.
Products displayed at a supermarket.
Image: FILE

The world marks World Consumer Rights Day on March 15 and this year it's all about the ‘Sustainable Consumer’. The focus has shifted to demanding accountability on consumption habits from the consumer in a planet that is feeling and showing the effects of human activity like never before.

Climate change is primarily driven by consumption habits. Expansion of cities, increased infrastructure and a drive for economic growth globally has changed how the consumer sees life. Producers are making products and services more affordable and accessible without due consideration to waste management. Plastics are changing forms despite a global campaign to reduce its production.

Plastic bottled water has become the norm in all boardroom meetings and public gatherings but a sustainable system of recycling is absent. The consumer remains the driver of production sometimes unknowingly, which can be dangerous.

 

There are five consumer responsibilities. They include staying informed, reading and following instructions, using products and services properly, speaking out against wrongdoing and lawfully purchasing goods and services. In Kenya, there is very little attention paid by consumers to the amount of packaging that ends up as waste that is poorly managed in our big cities and towns.

Consumers have developed fatigue in following up on promises to improve their environment and have left nature to take its course. We spend hours in traffic with personal vehicles because status dictates so yet if public transport was efficiently managed like they do in western countries, half of the problem regarding pollution, time-wasting and health problems associated with long sitting hours in tiny matatus would be solved.

The eight consumer rights are the right to satisfaction of basic needs, the right to safety, the right to information, the right to choose, the right to redress, the right to consumer education, the right to consumer representation and the right to a healthy environment. These powerful rights, if exercised properly, would improve the world immensely.

A wise consumer would appreciate the need of replacing 10 14-seater matatus with a train coach that is safer, spacious and comfortable, that would not only run in a straight line to a destination but would save us some stress.

The eight consumer rights are the right to satisfaction of basic needs, the right to safety, the right to information, the right to choose, the right to redress, the right to consumer education, the right to consumer representation and the right to a healthy environment. These powerful rights, if exercised properly, would improve the world immensely.

Going green remains a foreign phenomenon, with the majority of citizens having no understanding of what it means. Making more environmentally friendly decisions such as to ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ should be embedded in the foundations of learning in schools.

Schoolgoing children need to be guided early about conscious living that would translate to sustainable consumers. Role models like those cycling to work, eating organic foods from our farms and those switching off lights and water taps when not in use are what we need. Managing our limited resources will also create new jobs and new opportunities.

Consumer education should be included in the Building Bridges Initiative so that as politicians move around the country looking for votes, they also explain to Kenyans how we can farm sustainably or use water sustainably so that matters to do with perennial dry taps and unexplained power shortages are a thing of the past.

 

Basic needs are a pipe dream for many people. Those tasked to represent citizens are unable to provide lasting solutions. New ideas and space for new generations to explore better consumption habits are required. The devolved system has aided in decongesting urban areas but with poor planning, money is being diverted to more deforestation and occupation of reserve areas like rivers.

A sustained campaign to create awareness about consumer rights and responsibilities will increase accountability among consumers, producers and regulators.