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 campaign on ecofrig





Rationale behind The Campaign

Objectives of The Campaign

The Outcome




The layer of ozone gas in the atmosphere is like the earth’s natural sunscreen that protects life from harmful ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Ozone is created and destroyed as a natural process. The problem starts when ozone gets destroyed at a greater rate with emission of ozone-depleting substances. It creates an ozone hole through which unfiltered sunrays reach the earth. This causes cataracts, skin cancer, loss of immunity, harm to standing crops and genetic disorders


Concerned with the ozone-depleting potential and effects of chloro-fluoro-carbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS), the international community entered into an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987 to inter alia phase-out the use of CFCs and other ODS. Under this Protocol, 175 countries have committed themselves to a precise schedule for reducing and, eventually, phasing-out the consumption and production of ODS. Under the Protocol, countries with per capita consumption of ODS below 300 grams are called Article 5 countries. India falls into this category. The first major milestone for Article 5 countries was to freeze the levels of CFCs – CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113, CFC-114, CFC-115, as stated in Annex A of the Protocol – at the 1995-1997 average levels, which came into effect on July 1, 1999.


Rationale behind the campaign


As a premier consumer organisation, CUTS has been actively involved in information dissemination, awareness building and lobbying with the industry and the Government on issues of sustainable production and consumption, with particular focus on environment-friendly technologies.  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.  




A series of events were planned to educate the people on issues of ozone depletion and global warming in the quest (consumers’ rights and responsibilities) for a better environment.


The occasions selected for organising these events were Earth Day (April 22), World Environment Day (June 5) and International Ozone Day (September 16), with the objectives of:

  • Creating consumer awareness with the help of meetings/road shows/rallies/poster competitions,

  • Lobbying and pressurising erring companies to change to Ecofrig option by submitting memoranda, and

  • Using the media (print, audio visual and electronic) to spread the news about environment-friendly refrigerators among the consumers at large and also for pressurising the refrigerator manufacturing companies to give up double-standards and bring in the environment friendly HC technology to the Indian refrigeration market.

the outcome


After the completion of the final event, an element of responsibility was created among many refrigerator-manufacturing companies. During the campaign, refrigerator manufacturers said, they would change to Ecofrig before the deadline committed by the Government of India. However, they were silent on mentioning any specific deadline.


This campaign resulted in a success when Godrej Appliances Ltd., one of the largest Indian manufacturers, gave Indian consumers their first Ecofrig on January 9, 2001. The new refrigerator ‘Pentacool’ uses environmentally benign and safe pentane technology (a hydrocarbon). Godrej has launched it in four different capacities: 180 litres, 202 litres, 215 litres and 235 litres. The models are competitively priced vis-à-vis non-HC models of other manufacturers like LG and Whirlpool. The launch of the first Ecofrig invigorated consumer groups and concerned citizens who were part of nation-wide campaigns for raising consumer awareness on the adoption and use of environment-friendly technologies.


During the course of these advocacy efforts, a senior member of one of the State Pollution Control Boards told the press that there was little that the Board and State Governments could do about the use of harmful substances like HFCs. We demand to. the Central Government  to ban the use of harmful substances like HFCs.


Realising that a strong political will needs to be developed, the organisation made efforts with government officials, particularly at the Ozone Cell of the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India and policy-makers to raise this issue in the Parliament and create political consensus in formulating and implementing a law in this regard. These efforts bore fruit when in September 2001, the Government of India decided to start implementing the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000. As per the Rules, registration of production and trade, i.e. import-export of ozone-depleting substances has been made mandatory for manufacturers as well as stockists (whole sellers and retailers). The Government has also decided to implement programmes for generating awareness on ozone depletion and its effects on the environment.   


Thus, a small beginning has been made for the consumers of India to enjoy their right to healthy environment, which is one among the eight consumer rights as recognised by the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, 1985. The Guidelines was amended in 1999 to extend a comprehensive work programme on consumer protection by adding the Guidelines for Sustainable Consumption. 


In conclusion, refrigerator was used as an entry point of the efforts to generate awareness among common consumers on effects of harmful technologies on the environment and on the necessity of the adoption and use of environment-friendly technologies for the benefit of the Mother Earth. Efforts are on to take lessons from this campaign and for taking forward the agenda of adopting guidelines for sustainable production by the international community for the improvement of global environmental governance. 


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