The Treaties - 17 - Treaty on Consumption and Lifestyle


1. This treaty is meant to promote reflection and debate among social movements and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) leading to commitments for action within different local and regional contexts.


2. The most serious global environment and development problems facing the world arise from a world economic order characterized by ever expanding consumption and production, which exhausts and contaminates our natural resources and creates and perpetuates gross inequalities between and within nations. We can no longer tolerate a situation which has brought us beyond the limits of the earth's carrying capacity and where twenty percent of the people consume eighty percent of the world's resources. We must act to balance ecological sustainability with equity between and within countries. It will be necessary to develop new cultural and ethical values, transform economic structures and reorient our lifestyles.


3. Consumption and production patterns which are equitable and ecologically sustainable are consistent with six basic principles which apply to consumers and producers.


4. We must reawaken to the reality that quality of life is based on the development of human relationships, creativity, cultural and artistic expression, spirituality, reverence for the natural world and celebration of life, and is not dependent upon increased consumption of non-basic material goods.


5. The economic system should be restructured away from production and consumption of non-basic goods for a few to focus on production of goods to meet basic human needs (e.g. water, food, clothing, shelter, education, health care) for all persons.

6. Macro-economic systems should be restructured to include ecological and social costs in the prices for all goods and services, including work in the unpaid and informal sector.

7. Local communities must have full participation in the control and decision-making power over the management of the use of natural resources on which their economy depends to assure that these resources are used and consumed in an equitable and environmentally sustainable way.

8. Continuation of the current economic order carries with it the threat of serious or irreversible environmental damage and associated social disruption. Therefore, lack of full scientific certainty regarding potential impacts of conversion should not be used as a reason to avoid immediate action.

9. Because the industrialized countries consume the vast proportion of the world's natural resources and create the majority of the global pollution, they must bear the primary responsibility for restoring the natural environment and compensating the victims of environmental degradation.


10. The concept of environmental space, whereby all people have the right to equitable shares of water, food, air, land and other resources within the carrying capacity of the earth, should be the basis for equitable production and consumption.

11. While overall population growth is a danger to the health of the planet, it must be recognized that population growth in the North, due to extremely high levels of per capita consumption, is a far greater immediate environmental threat than population growth in the South. Meeting basic needs is a prerequisite for stabilizing population growth.


12. Overall consumption and production must be eased back to fit within the regenerative carrying capacity of the earth. Given the ecological and development crisis, this transition must be completed within a few decades in order to avoid irreversible damage to life on earth.

13. The use of energy, especially fossil fuels, must be reduced significantly. Renewable sources which are less environmentally damaging should be promoted.

14. Due to their destructive social and environmental impacts, production and use of military goods and weapons are not an acceptable part of an equitable and environmentally sustainable society.

15. Production and consumption of products with built-in obsolescence should be stopped; consumption of products which are transported over long distances should be reduced; and production processes which create toxic, hazardous, or radioactive wastes should be halted.

16. Reduction in consumption should have priority over reuse or recycling of products.


17. Goods should be produced in closed cycles, whereby substances are continually reused to the greatest extent.

18. Goods should be produced to have the least impact on the environment, with long durability, high efficiency and simple repairability.

19. After reduction, reuse of goods should have priority over recycling.


20. Industries and government must take full responsibility for proper treatment throughout the life cycle of the production process. If there are waste products, they should be treated where they are produced and not transported across national boundaries.

21. Local decentralized recycling units should be a priority over large-scale centralized recycling units due to their greater employment creation and lower use in general of energy and transport.

22. Incineration of waste should not be considered as an alternative to recycling.

Action Plan

We, the undersigned, commit ourselves to the following actions:


23. Conduct, first, a self-assessment of our own lifestyle choices in light of the elements of this treaty and make personal commitments towards change

24. Participate with business and industry, government, academia, voluntary and community organizations, political groups and other personal affiliations to examine jointly the ways we can improve our consumption and production patterns to meet basic human needs around the world

25. Develop new concepts of wealth and associated indicators of development for individuals, communities and nations which support new models of socio-economic and human development which are equitable, environmentally sustainable and which recognize the full range of human aspirations

26. Create awareness and set an example in our organizations and the community of more balanced working environments which strengthen a sense of community, encourage human creativity and depth in personal relationships and meet the physical, mental and spiritual needs of people

27. Recognize the things in life which truly bring joy and satisfaction. Notice, appreciate and care for the relationships that sustain us, whether with our fellow human beings or with the natural world of which we are a part, and spend time enjoying and enlivening them

28. Commit ourselves to learn from communities which live in sustainable ways utilizing appropriate technologies

29. Analyze resistance to change from within consumer societies and find ways to motivate people to accept new values and behavior.

Restructure and Redistribute

30. Influence international and national fiscal, monetary and trade policies to include: integration of social and environmental costs into product prices, fair trade, land redistribution, debt alleviation, equitable tax systems, regulation of transnational corporations, an end to structural adjustment policies and changes in other structural forces which negatively impact equitable and environmentally sustainable production and consumption patterns

31. Promote conversion to an equitable and ecologically sustainable economy, and take responsibility for the needs of those whose livelihoods are negatively affected. Strengthen local and regional economies as the basis for community self-reliance in meeting basic needs for all people and research and promote alternative investment and employment opportunities to assist those who are displaced when unsustainable industries are halted

32. Support and participate in initiatives such as alternative trade markets, networks and cooperatives with environmentally and socially responsible services and products. Encourage local and regional consumer-producer networks such as community supported agriculture (CSA). Especially encourage linking Northern consumers with Southern producers to ensure fair payment and support environmentally sustainable production in the South

33. Establish and publish a set of criteria for socially just and environmentally sustainable consuming and investing, appropriate to different regions

34. Participate in the creation and monitoring of national eco-labelling systems, based on local and regional criteria set by NGOs and social movements, and share them internationally. Urge governments to reform their trade laws to cover misleading and inaccurate labelling on products

35. Join and initiate campaigns to pressure companies to end policies and production processes which are socially and environmentally detrimental to communities around the world

36. Support legislation to strengthen consumer rights, especially to ensure environmentally sustainable, safe and healthy products, and establish the "right to know" laws which enable people to make informed consumption choices

37. Support, initiate and use "green" funds that make socially and environmentally responsible investments

38. Influence governments to counter the disproportionate influence of commercial self-interests in government and the media

39. Support responsible tourism and create awareness about the negative effects of air travel

40. Participate in and support educational efforts, both formal and informal, which aim to increase awareness of critical global issues and their root causes and interrelationships, develop new values and attitudes and motivate changes in consumption, production and lifestyle. Social movements and NGOs should:

    a. provide educational methodologies which focus on values clarification and moving beyond blame to constructive action

    b. provide training and assistance for leaders of business and industry, government, unions and others on consumption and production

    c. initiate and support the training and work of environmental counselors who provide responsible consumption and product information

    d. cooperate with media to initiate and strengthen educational programs on the social and environmental impacts of consumption and production and to build awareness of consumer responsibility and potential

    e. support school reform movements to ensure integration of lifestyle education for responsible consumption

    f. ensure that courses related to marketing, economics, development, environment, etc., adapt their content to the new realities

    g. ensure that equal access to consumption and lifestyle education - living better with less - be made available to all.

Reduce and Reuse

41. Reduce impacts from "industrialized agriculture" by consuming foods which are locally grown by organic methods, low on the food chain, minimally processed and sold in bulk

42. Reduce energy consumption through use reduction, conversion to renewable sources and utilization of efficient energy systems

43. Reduce the waste and polluting effects of automobiles and aircraft through the alternative use of railroads, bicycles and public transportation

44. Join coalitions and sponsor campaigns to pressure business and industry to eliminate built-in obsolescence, promote longer durability of products, reduce production of disposables and alter production processes which create toxic, hazardous or radioactive wastes

45. Promote product maintenance and repair systems and second-hand markets

46. Reduce wasteful and energy intensive long distance transport of products by encouraging consumption of local and regional products.


47. Promote, create and participate in local resource recovery systems, such as reuse and recycling centers, which involve separation at source. Pressure government and industry to financially support such local centers

48. Urge packaging and distributing companies to implement an effective deposit-return system for containers and other packaging

49. Pressure industry and government to organize "cradle to cradle" production processes

50. Urge Northern governments, international financial institutions and aid agencies to give financial and technical support for resource recovery systems and management, particularly in the South

51. Encourage industry to use recycled, before virgin, materials.

Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation

52. Facilitate collaboration between grassroots, national and international social movements and NGOs and strengthen our networks to:

53. Utilize national and international conferences of social movements and NGOs to monitor and evaluate progress on this treaty. Social movements and NGOs in the industrialized regions should bear primary responsibility for implementation of this agreement

54. Build participation in and among social movements and NGOs at the national level to participate in the implementation of the treaty. National networks should appoint staff to coordinate the action plan

55. Set measures of and evaluate progress of sustainable consumption and production patterns

56. Operate information clearinghouses (including a database) to facilitate the sharing of lessons learned about consumer campaigns, research and actions of communities, government and industry

57. Publish action alerts and sustain local and international campaigns by social movements, NGOs and consumer groups

58. Research and publicize environmentally and socially sound initiatives

59. Organize recognition programs for responsible and successful initiatives of social movements, governments, businesses, NGOs and others

60. Monitor government and industry actions on these issues

61. Strengthen our networks to monitor global economic systems and the transnational actions of government and industry. Pressure the new United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to assist networks of social movements and NGOs in their work

62. Demand the significant involvement of social movements and NGOs in government efforts and international bodies.

Groups to be Involved

63. Social movements and NGOs will work to involve the widest number of organizations, especially women's and consumer organizations, which agree to the principles of this treaty.


Signatories and supporters of this treaty will:

64. Urge NGO networks to commit staff time and administrative resources to the implementation of the coordination, monitoring and evaluation

65. Commit significant material, financial and human resources to carrying out the action plan and encourage the widest participation

66. Demand that companies provide part of their budgets, personnel and training time to support positive change in consumption and production patterns

67. Encourage funding agencies to support the activities in the treaty

68. Encourage the United Nations, governments and funding agencies to support the actions of this treaty.

© 2001 by Ulrich Schmitthenner • Bildschirm-Version