The United Nations Development Programme indicates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste annually, while about 2 billion people go hungry or are undernourished. Another 2 billion people are overweight or obese.
Also, statistics estimate that up to 700 million people will be displaced by 2030 due to water scarcity, while 30% to 40% of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted, placing an unnecessary strain on the environment.
Further, publications on Science Advances indicate that approximately over 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste had been generated to date. Unfortunately, only 9% of the 6.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste has been recycled while 12% has been incinerated. The rest is located in landfills, dumpsites and the environment, with a significant amount washing up ashore, spit out by saturated oceans and seas after choking the marine life.
The verdict is in; to protect the planet and provide fair social conditions for current and future generations, we all need to interrogate the role we play in the production and consumption of goods and services, and its impact on the environment.
This challenge calls for a coordinated global action by consumers, a sustained approach by Governments and consumer bodies to encourage sustainable consumption, including policy makers setting up of the necessary infrastructure.
It is for this reason that this year’s World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is shining a spotlight on consumers’ role in the production and consumption of goods and services, and the attendant environmental impact. The theme of this year’s event is ‘Sustainable Consumer.’
The WCRD, which is commemorated annually on March 15th, aims to raise awareness about consumers’ rights, needs, and obligations and how to seek restitution in cases where those rights are infringed upon.
There is need for behavioural change among the business community to adopt sustainability models. Other interventions should include interrogating the sustainability of the entire value chain by, for instance, ensuring that raw materials are safe and recyclable.
Recyclable and or reusable packaging is another way of addressing plastic waste. It is key to note that the Government of Kenya banned plastic carrier bags in 2017. Further, the Government has announced a ban on single-use plastics in beaches, national parks, forests and conservation areas effective June 5, 2020.
Manufactures should also pivot to producing goods that are built to last, especially electronics which are part now ubiquitous of our lives. This will significantly lower the current rapid accumulation of e-waste.
The Competition Authority of Kenya considers the WCRD 2020 as a key opportunity to sensitize and empower consumers to make sustainable choices which will contribute positively to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. The Authority has conducted consumer campaigns in Migori, Kisumu and Kakamega Counties.
Our key message is the power of consumers in making purchase, use and disposal choices and their ability to influence the whole system by demanding more from supply chains and calling for more sustainable products and services.
Sustainable consumption will boost resource efficiency and fair trade while helping to alleviate poverty and enable everyone to enjoy a good quality of life with access to food, water, energy, medicine and more.
Businesses also stand to gain - as more discerning consumers agitate for sustainable products, the companies that are aligned to this stand to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.
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We wish every Kenyan a happy World Consumer Rights Day!
By Boniface Makongo, Director Competition & Consumer Protection, CAK