A consumer citizen is an individual who makes choices based on ethical, social, economic and ecological considerations. The consumer citizen actively contributes to the maintenance of just and sustainable development by caring and acting responsibly on family, national and global levels.
What is ESC?
The following description of Education for Sustainable Consumption has been developed by a range of experts in a number of fields. It is the description used in the publication Here and Now!
“Education for Sustainable Consumption (ESC) aims at providing knowledge, values and skills to enable individuals and social groups to become actors of change towards more sustainable ways of living. The objective is to ensure that the basic needs of the global community are met, quality of life for all is improved, inefficient use of resources and environmental degradation are avoided.
ESC is therefore about providing citizens with the appropriate information and knowledge on the environmental and social impacts of their daily choices, as well as workable solutions and alternatives. ESC integrates fundamental rights and freedoms including consumers’ rights, and aims at empowering citizens for them to participate in the public debate and economy in an informed and ethical way.”
The basic learning outcomes of ESC can be defined as attitudes, knowledge, skills and behavior leading to:
- Critical awareness
- Ecological responsibility
- Social responsibility
- Action and involvement
- Global solidarity.
Education for Sustainable Consumption is a subset of, and contributes to, Education for Sustainable Development. See more information on Education for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014 (UNDESD) led by UNESCO.
Consumer citizenship, as a concept, originated in Canada in the 1990s and spread to Australia and Europe where it was further expanded upon by the Consumer Citizenship Network.
“Globalization is integrating consumer markets around the world and opening opportunities. But it is also creating new inequalities and new challenges for protecting consumer rights…Ever expanding consumption puts strains on the environment and turns the affluence of some into the social exclusion of many.” (UNDP 1998)
“People must consumer to survive, and the world’s poorest will need to increase their level of consumption if they are to lead lives of dignity and opportunity. But the world cannot continue on its current trajectory—the earth’s natural systems simply cannot support it. The economies of mass consumption that produced a world of abundance for many in the twentieth century face an entirely different challenge in the twenty-first: to focus not on the indefinite accumulation of goods but instead on a better quality of life for all, with minimal environmental harm.” (State of the World Report 2004, World Watch Institute; Gary Gardner, Erik Assadourian, Radhika Sarin)