While approaching towards the new millennium, the Alma Ata declaration of  “Health for All by 2000 AD” appears to be a mirage. In spite of this dismissal scenario, the entitlements of health care, safe drinking water and sanitation as an inalienable element of the consumers’ Rights to Basic Needs cannot be denied. Additionally a consumer is also entitled to safe goods, services and environment for it affects her/his life directly. Feeling the need for more focused action in the area of consumer safety, in 1993, CUTS established Centre for Sustainable Consumption & Production (C-SPAC) at its Calcutta Centre.

The Centre is closely involved with promotion of sustainable patterns of consumption and production. Under sustainable consumption, CUTS is focusing its work on Chapter 4 of the Agenda 21, adopted at the Earth Summit at Rio. Here the endeavor is not only to understand and disseminate the concept of sustainable consumption but also its inter-linkages with other related areas such as production patterns, under and over consumption, poverty etc. It has developed a Strategy Plan for its work programme.

To achieve the citizen’s right to be protected against unsafe goods, services and environment, and to promote sustainable consumption and production, and provoke questioning and action.

To strive for human safety, reduction of environmental hazards, responsible consumption, and public education through research, advocacy and networking.


ampaign on Ecofridge

The CUTS campaign for environment-friendly refrigerators for Indian consumers started in 1998 when the organisation undertook a two-year awareness generation project on Ecofrig, with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), New Delhi office.

CUTS-Centre for Sustainable Production and Consumption based at Calcutta works simultaneously at the grassroots,national and international levels on various issues that ultimately, directly or indirectly, affect the consumer. CUTS-CSPAC has successfully coordinated the whole project. During the implementation of the Ecofrig project, it was found that four multinational refrigerator-manufacturing companies-Electrolux, LG, Samsung and Whirlpool- were practising double standards. In India they are trying to promote refrigerators as environment friendly under the pretext of using ozone depleting substances-free technology. But they are actually using hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) technology that is responsible for global warming. Interestingly, these manufacturers are producing refrigerators (popularly known as Ecofrig) using hydrocarbon (HC) technology, which is ozone friendly and more importantly has negligible global warning potential for the consumption of European consumers. 

 C-SPAC Campaign on Ecofridge

Events organised during the Campaign

Ozone Day

Earth day

Study on Eco-labeling

One way forward in the sustainability movement is the availability of goods and services in the market place, which have been produced in a more environment-friendly manner than goods or services in a similar category. No goods or services can be produced in an environment-friendly manner, absolutely. But how would consumers know which goods are environmentally friendlier. Thus arrived the environmental labelling scheme (eco-labelling).

In India, as a result of advocacy by CUTS and VOICE (another consumer group), the Indian Ecomark scheme was launched in 1991. The scheme was designed to cover 16 product categories. Of this, one i.e. on drugs was dropped later. Two committees were also set up to implement the scheme. One is the steering committee, which is required to identify the products and promote the scheme. The second is the technical committee, which debates and sets the product criteria. The
Bureau of Indian Standards
is the authority to award and oversee the eco-labelling. CUTS is a member of both the committees. 

In 1997, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India commissioned the Centre to do a study on green consumption in India by testing consumer and industry responses to India’s Ecomark scheme specifically and sustainable consumption and production patterns generally in four metropolitan cities. The study was submitted to the Ministry in April 1998, and it found that only consumers in the higher income category were willing to pay more, and that also not exceeding 10 percent more than another similar good. The responding consumers displayed a high level of awareness on their Right to Healthy Environment (90-95%) and linked it to factors, which have clear relationship with eco-labelling. 

At the state level, the Centre is engaged in Sustainable Rajasthan project. A one-day workshop, involving consumer and environmental groups of Rajasthan, was organised in 1998 to discuss issues concerning the implementation of Agenda 21 at the local level. The recommendations of the workshop were compiled into a discussion paper in Hindi: Prithvi ki Shikhar se Jarmul Tak (From Peak of the Earth to the Grassroot; available by post). Following that a concept paper is prepared for the implementation of the project. 

UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection

CUTS has been involved with the international campaign on amendments to the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection since 1995 to add on guidelines on sustainable consumption and on trade liberalisation. The draft text on the guidelines for  sustainable consumption have been approved and can be seen at www.un.org\esa\sustdev\cpp\6.htm. The battle to get the amendments on trade liberalisation is an uphill task.

At another level, CUTS has also designed a Toolkit for implementation of the Guidelines. This is also available at the abovementioned website. CUTS has been engaged in the analyses of the implementation of the Guidelines in India. Analyses and reporting have been done in the framework of the eight consumer rights, which the Guidelines addresses under five sections. The Report also finds that the Government of India has never addressed the need for a comprehensive consumer policy. For this, a draft National Consumer Policy statement is provided as annexure to the Report.

Contact Us

3B, Camac Street, 3rd Floor, Mansarowar Building
Calcutta- 700 016, India
Ph: 91 33 2227 4985/ 2229 7391
Telefax: 91 33 2227 4987
Em: calcutta@cuts.org/cutscal@vsnl.com