Press Release 11 2012
15 March 2012
Is there room for sustainability under the current economic crisis?
The critical situation Europe is experiencing has placed economic growth at the forefront. Consumer's confidence, industrial production, manufacturing and trade sale are topics on everybody's lips. But what exactly are consumers' expectations? Is it possible to make sustainable consumption a mass-reality in times of crisis? These and other questions were thronged and tackled at the 2012 European Consumer Day, held today in Copenhagen and organised by the European Economic and Social Committee and the Danish Consumer Council.
Marking the 2012 European Consumer Day, the conference "Sustainable consumption in a time of crisis" brought together European and Danish representatives to analyse present and future strategies to promote sustainable consumption and production alternatives.
"I am convinced that the difficult times we are facing are an opportunity to promote sustainable consumption. Fundamentally transforming the foundations of our economy is the greatest contribution we can make towards building a sustainable future, where consumers are expected to play an active role. Let us give them tools to make smart, well-reasoned choices and to be better informed! Let us make sustainable products a real choice for consumers!" stated EESC President Staffan Nilsson, at the opening session of the conference.
"The current economic crisis has given us a opportunity to think about our economic patterns. We should empower consumers to make a green choice and thus contribute to a economy where we address resource efficiency in our daily lives as consumers", added Ole Sohn, Danish Minister for Business and Growth.
The future is at stake
The current European system of production and consumption is seen as environmentally unsustainable, especially in its dependence on energy, materials, land and water, and its impacts on the global climate and biodiversity. If everyone in the world lived a European lifestyle, we would need over 2.5 planets. That's why a dialogue is needed; involving EU institutions, national and local governments, and all the social partners. This dialogue must also be connected to action.
In Europe, consumption growth outweighs gains from improved technologies, and the largest environmental pressures from consumption are related to the life-cycle of food, housing and mobility. "Today it is often much more expensive or not even an option if consumers want sustainable products and services. That needs to change. Sustainable consumption ought to be the easiest choice for consumers", insisted Rasmus Kjeldahl, Executive Director of The Danish Consumer Council.
Sustainable consumption must be seen as an opportunity to boost new economic models while preserving the environment and our resources. The EU is already experiencing some tendencies that lead to a shift towards sustainability. "Recent policy initiatives and forthcoming legislative reforms will help consumers become prominent participants in a sustainable European economy. In particular, we should ensure the implementation of proper information standards that can guide consumer choices", concluded Malcolm Harbour, President of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee at the European Parliament.
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 The 1994 Oslo Symposium on Sustainable Consumption defines it as "the use of services and related products which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations."
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