On consumer rights and the right to consume

Think about all the things you buy on a weekly basis. All the clothes, food and the commuting you do, all the things that produce a carbon footprint, which is pretty much encompasses everything we do in a modern society. Would you be able to cut down 3 fourths of it, and get by with only the 25%? If you are living a modern lifestyle – that’s what you might have to do in order to reach a level of consumption that is sustainable.



In 1962 Kennedy gave a speech in the congress which later became to be known as the consumer bill of rights, the date of that speech, the 15th of March,  later became the world consumer rights day.  With all the material wealth that the 20th century brought to the now developed countries, we started thinking more and more of ourselves in terms of consumers, and consumers that have rights.  Somewhere along the line people also woke up to the fact that growth and consumerism had a negative side effect, the inconvenient fact that we’re running out of resources on this planet. In fact, today globally, we are using 1,6 times the resources than what we actually can use sustainably on this planet.


Fortunately, nowadays we have more and more options for sustainable consumption as people are increasingly aware of the effect their daily choices have on the environment. Still every year we overstep the boundary of the sustainable level of consumption earlier and earlier.  In 2016, we did that already on the 8th of August.


Yet not everyone has the luxury of buying ethical products and for the large part of people on earth consumption is about making the ends meet, and having the most basic things in life.


It’s undeniable that in the quest for a higher standard of living through economic growth, the developing countries can’t be following the footsteps of industrialized countries. There are more than 1 billion cars driving the roads of the world today. In the next decades that number is predicted to double only by the contribution of the growing number of cars in China. But how could one deny people the right to a higher standard of living?  Poverty is a very complex phenomenon, but it is most importantly about not being able to satisfy the most basic material needs. And the fulfillment of these needs requires production.




The question is how can we work together to get to a level of consumption that will be fair for all yet sustainable at the same time.


We all make decisions as consumers everyday. Those decisions, no matter how small, all add up to the bigger picture. As consumers we have rights, but we also have responsibilities to make the decisions that are sustainable. Acting sustainably is one of the core values of AIESEC. We also want people to believe in their ability to make a difference in the world, because the change starts with you and environmental sustainability requires actions from all of us.


The kinds of problems we face today on the global level are so connected that we all need to be able to work together to find a solution. We want to develop people who engage with others to achieve a bigger purpose.  So it’s not only about what decisions you make, it’s about what other people do too, and in order for people to make the right choices, we need awareness. AIESEC works with the Sustainable Development Goals through numerous volunteering projects around the world. Find your opportunity to contribute here.


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