Consumers International calls for climate action and stronger cross-border protection at Davos 2020

27 January 2020

Consumers International joined world leaders at the World Economic Forum's Annual meeting in Davos, 21-24 January 2020, to ensure that the global consumer voice was represented in high-level discussions on privacy and digital rights, sustainable consumption, plastics recycling, the future of food, finance and energy.

Representing over 200 consumer advocacy groups around the world, we were one of 30 civil society organisations, including Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the International Trade Union Confederation invited to attend the iconic meeting of 3,000 leaders. Helena Leurent, Director General of Consumers International, called for consumer groups to be more involved in international discussions that shape the daily lives of consumers.

Moving away from the ‘disposable society’

A strong theme throughout Davos 2020 was the deep urgency for action on the climate crisis, both in terms of the scale of change needed and the necessity for what one leader called ‘uncomfortable partnerships’ across industry, government and civil society.

In an Open Forum panel, The Disposable Society, Helena Leurent called for action to rethink our ‘broken consumption model’, closing the intent to action gap by envisioning ‘how to make it easy for consumers to look after our environment in the way we should’. The panel convened climate youth activists Melani Wijsen and Akira Sakano, scientists and leaders from Swiss Parliament, Greenpeace and Royal DSM NV. There was a strong consensus for giving every stakeholder clear goals for how they can contribute to the drive for a circular economy.

Sustainable consumption is a core priority for the global consumer advocacy movement who will join consumer activists and other stakeholders on 15 March 2020 to celebrate World Consumer Rights Day’s theme The Sustainable Consumer. The campaign will call for global action to make sustainability the easy choice for consumers, as well as highlighting the important role that consumer rights and protection can play.

This year’s coordinated action will see consumer advocacy groups engaging and raising awareness amongst young people through a range of activities. The #SustainableConsumer campaign will provide momentum for further coordinated action to put the consumer voice at the heart of the debate when world leaders meet at COP 26 in Glasgow, UK, from 9 to 19 November 2020.

Harmonising protections as the key to a fairer future

As part of the ‘Building Trust in Data Flows’ panel, Helena was joined by leaders from the European Commission, Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and VISA. She made the case for robust and harmonised consumer protection in the wake of the Osaka Track, a framework for the free flow of data across borders launched at the G20: ‘We need to move to smarter, more agile and harmonised consumer protection and enforcement globally. By ensuring all countries implement high standards, we can enable more trust in the flow of information that can power our future.

Vera Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, supported the call for harmonised data protection legislation and enforcement, adding that ‘data protection rules do not hamper innovation or digital growth’, and must be foundations for building consumer trust in data flows.

Last year, Consumers International, working with members including BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), co-led the first ever Consumer Trade Dialogue in Geneva. At the Dialogue, we called on trade negotiators to respect and uphold consumer rights when mapping out the rules for how personal data is protected when it crosses international borders. We look forward to a similar connection at the WTO in 2020.

Our View

The consumer voice is too absent from international discussions that impact our lives, and this was the resounding message we delivered to world leaders at Davos. The consumer advocacy movement is a crucial partner for providing local and global, real-world experience and perspective, as well as urgency and activism for constructive change. This will also require change in the consumer movement to support meaningful innovation

Helena Leurent, Director General, Consumers International