Only 53% of countries are fulfilling the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection ‘priority areas of essential concern for the health of the consumer’. Only 30% of countries have a sustainable consumption plan. Few countries engage consumers and consumer rights into the food system in a coherent manner. Policies, practices, and institutions which empower consumers and consumer rights are siloed, under-resourced, and inadequately enforced, and consumer engagement as a force for innovation is under-utilised. As a result, consumers are distrustful of change, disengaged from behavioural changes needed for net-zero, and under-served by the marketplace. Consumers who are more empowered and engaged in the future of food systems will have a greater stake in building this future. Our solution is to strengthen the voice of consumers in the development of healthy and sustainable food systems and to reinforce the levers of consumer protection and empowerment as a means for food systems transformation. This includes:
- Strengthening the role of consumers and consumer rights in policy-making and standard-setting.
- Creating institutions and mechanisms which effectively identify and address consumer harms
- Incubating and scaling up sources of innovation from consumer empowerment and engagement (e.g. data stewardship, product design, and supply chain solutions).
We need to ensure that consumer voices are heard in national, regional, and international decision-making on food systems. Policies and standards that are informed by a strong and independent consumer voice are more likely to enhance consumers’ motivation and capacity to change behaviours. Businesses need to see consumer rights and empowerment as a tool for product design, enabling more agile and innovative decision-making. Finally, siloed problem-solving needs to be replaced by a more holistic approach, for example by bringing consumers and farmers together in dialogue.