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Anwar Fazal: 'On Being A Sustainable Consumer'

Our blogs highlight a range of consumer issues from different perspectives. Unless otherwise stated they do not represent the position of Consumers International.

AUTHORS: Anwar Fazal

As part of our blog series for World Consumer Rights Day, we asked thought leaders across the world to provide insight into the campaign theme 'The Sustainable Consumer'. 

Anwar Fazal was the President of the International Organisation of Consumers Union (IOCU), now Consumers International, from 1978 to 1984. He was the founder of World Consumer Rights Day and a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, popularly known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' for his work on global consumer issues.


Two words that are important to have in mind when thinking about sustainable consumption,  Comprehensivist and Possibilist.

As a ‘comprehensivist’, you look at the total, the linkages, the depth. As a ‘possibilist’, wanting to get things done, you can see the opportunities in rediscovering our strengths as part of our natural systems.

To help us with our journey to make a better, more sustainable world, we need to become both a comprehensivist and a possibilist.

A more holistic approach to consumption and production

The last two centuries of industrialisation and modernisation, while bringing us progress and speed, has created unprecedented toxicity and is sweeping us sooner rather than later into ecological self-destruction.

The food systems are an example of this, the world has more people suffering from obesity than malnutrition and hunger. We have rising prices of food because we use land and crops to fuel motor cars, one of the world’s biggest killers of people.

The ‘appropriate technology’ movement and the new ‘Rights of Mother Earth’ movement must surge forward together led by a vision, mission, and passion for clean, green, safer processes that build on natural and human systems. Every technology, every process, every product must go through a deep process of eco-thinking and ethics in a comprehensive and holistic way. Each of us can make it happen and together with others unleash the power of many for the transformational change so necessary.

The Future is in our hands

One of the most wonderful things in life is that you can make a difference by embracing the power of five, to inform, to inspire, and to share ideas for initiatives that move humanity towards the future we need:

  1. The power of “one” – Little people doing little things in little places can together change the world.
  2. The power of “many” – The age of networking has made so much more possible. Remember, be light, participatory, and action-oriented.
  3. The power of “spiritual and universal values and norms” – Seek them and live them.
  4. The power of “information” – There is so much now available and at speed that can keep you alert about the world, and the emergency crises..
  5. The power of “success” – There are so many good things happening. Learn from them, celebrate them. Those who say it cannot be done can be told that someone is already doing it!