Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Providing accurate information to consumers about the environmental and social impacts of the products they consume is a vital element in making the shift to more sustainable consumption and production patterns.
The 10YFP Consumer Information Programme (CIP) - the second action to get under way as part of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP), mandated by the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development in 2012 - was launched today.
The CIP will be co-led by the Governments of Germany and Indonesia along with Consumers International, with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which hosts the 10YFP Secretariat. The CIP will assist governments, standards organizations, businesses and NGOs in their efforts to provide clear, accurate and reliable information about a product's impact on the planet and its people.
The CIP will review existing information tools and systems, such as voluntary standards, ecolabels and marketing claims, with the aim of enhancing their effectiveness by harmonizing data and criteria. It will also explore new communication channels to reach consumers effectively.
Its goals are to:
1) Improve availability, accessibility and quality of consumer information to create a basis for the provision of credible information.
2) Drive change in government and business to ensure that the framework conditions are provided to support best practices in relation to consumer information.
3) Enhance communication to drive behavioural change and ensure the transition from being informed to taking action.
"Sustainable consumption and production is about doing more and better with less," said Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP. "But for consumers to be able to achieve that goal, they need to have confidence in the accuracy and verity of the information they are basing their decisions upon."
"The Consumer Information Programme of the 10YFP is a critical step towards this goal as it will better inform consumers around the world on choices which drive sustainable consumption. The programme draws in governments and businesses who are actually responsible for relevant policies, information tools and production processes, promoting multi-stakeholder cooperation in this drive for sustainable consumption."
Demand for sustainable goods and services is high and continues to rise - research indicates that the number of new ecolabels has increased each year since the 1990s, with about 400 existing ecolabels today. Yet consumers often remain unable to make an informed choice because the bases on which the sustainability information is developed are often not comparable. Surveys show that the proliferation of sustainability information tools has left consumers confused, resulting in a shift from interest to scepticism.
"More than 70 per cent of the greenhouse gases in the world are caused by household decisions. Reliable consumer information is key to enable consumers to make informed choices for purchasing sustainable products and services" said Barbara Hendricks, Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany
Consumer information is equally important in developing and emerging economies. "With the rise of the middle class around the world - in particular in Asia where 66% of the global middle-class population will be by 2030 - embracing the resource efficiency challenge is an imperative. Quality information is crucial in this journey in which Indonesia has embarked," said Balthasar Kambuaya, the Minister of Environment, Indonesia
Choosing sustainable products can also result in substantial savings in material as well as in financial terms. However, consumers need clear information to guide them on these often complex issues, as they face an ever-increasing number of labels and standards, which convey widely differing and sometimes misleading information about products' impacts.
The CIP will be a global platform, raising awareness of relevant policies, strategies, projects and partnerships, and encouraging cooperation across products and sectors to harmonize and clarify sustainability information. It will look at products along their whole life cycles, from resource extraction to end-of-life disposal.
"Ensuring consumers have access to accurate, understandable and timely information is central to building environmental, social and economic sustainability. We look forward to working with partners to build on the great work that is already being done and launch new initiatives that empower consumers to play their part in the shift towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production," said Justin Macmullan head of advocacy and campaigns at Consumers International.
For more information, contact:
Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, UNEP Division of Communication and Public Information, Tel. +254 788 526 000. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Moira O'Brien-Malone, Head, Communications, UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, Tel: + 33 1 44 37 76 12 or mobile +33 6 82 26 93 73. Email: email@example.com