European Consumer Day 2022: empowering citizens for a greener world

Tougher legislation to combat greenwashing and built-in obsolescence along with expanded repair services and better product information can help consumers contribute to the green transition, European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and European Commission leaders said during an event held on 17 November to commemorate European Consumer Day.

The energy crisis, rising inflation and declining economic growth had brought the EU to a turning point. It was vital for citizens and businesses to adopt sustainable behaviours, EESC president Christa Schweng said in her opening speech at the EESC’s headquarters in Brussels.

Our path forward must be more sustainable for the planet. Consumers and businesses must take ownership of the green transition. It is our job to provide them with the right tools, she said.

European Consumer Day is part of the EESC’s work to protect consumer rights, combat unfair and illegal trading practices and promote sustainable consumption and production. This year’s event, the 23rd edition, was held under the theme “Empowering consumers for a more sustainable world”. 

Roundtable discussions focused on topics including use of data to show people how their purchases affect their carbon footprint, the popularity of repair cafés, and how rental and subscription services are competing with the traditional economy of buying and owning goods. 

Working together for the Green Deal

Both the EESC president and European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders urged every citizen to contribute to the Green Deal objectives. Increasingly more consumers were becoming aware that they could do so by changing their consumptions patterns.

Mr Reynders said: We must give consumers the means to act for a more sustainable world. We need to attack this challenge from many angles – including with robust legislation and a space for voluntary engagement.

More support for sustainable choices

In their response to discussions, representatives from the EESC, European Commission and Swedish government highlighted the need for consumers and businesses to be supported in making sustainable choices.

Nils Behrndt, Deputy Director-General, at the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers said it was tempting for consumers to ignore sustainability in the current economic crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. 
This was why putting the focus on climate change and the green transition, as the EESC has done during this year’s European Consumer Day, was very important. He also called for the appropriate legislative framework to be put in place.

We need clear and binding rules for companies and consumers, including better protection against unfair practices, otherwise we can’t use the power of the single market, he said.

Natasa Ristic Davidson, State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, said consumer rights needed to be properly enforced and supervisory bodies given adequate resources. 

In closing the event, Alain Coheur, president of the EESC section for the Single Market, said the Committee would continue giving consumers a voice.

We must move forward together and strengthen synergies between players, to develop better polices to meet new challenges, he said.

Work organisation