SDG 12 — Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

(1) Fundamental human rights cannot be limited by terms and conditions of business. Digital corporations rather have a responsibility to uphold human rights. This should be an integral part of business practices as well as national, EU and international regulation. Similar to the corporate accountability index, IT companies should have to ensure that their technologies, algorithms and software do not transgress human rights. The supervision of these processes needs to be independent, transparent and publicly accessible. Law makers are obliged to ensure protection of its citizens, including the implementation of legally binding instruments on corporations with respect to human rights according the UN process towards a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights as well as pursuing and implementing transparency initiatives along the value chain such as the Kimberly Process, Conflict Mineral Laws or the UK Modern Slavery Act.

(2) The principles of privacy by design and privacy by default have to be applied e.g. according to the EU GDPR. The EU e-privacy directive needs to be adopted as soon as possible, including a regulation on the use of search engine data and communication software. Tracking has to be limited. Data processors have to ensure all regulations of data protection are applied during the whole process of data handling. Within the EU, customers have the right to have their data deleted by the data processors without undue delay. A violation of data protection law or against fundamental rights has to be prosecuted. This includes rigorous and consequent follow-up on nuisances and scandals even if commercial interest might be impaired.

(3) Warranties need to become much more consumer-friendly. Transparency of a product’s durability has to increase through a mandatory identification of its life span by the producer. This includes a labeling system that transparently and comprehensibly informs customers of maximum service life (e.g. of expandable parts), of durability, reparability and modularity of a product. Consumer protection laws should introduce “willful deception” as an element of offense for any case of planned obsolescence. Ten or more years minimum durability for expandable parts of consumer goods would involve hardly any additional costs for producers but could increase a product’s durability tremendously. An appropriate EU regulation has to be implemented immediately.

(4) The fundamental right to property should include the right to repair. All producers and retailers should make expandable parts accessible to all market actors during the service life of a product. The price of expandable parts needs to be reasonable and justifiable in relation to production costs. A legal claim for accessible expandable parts has to be ensured. Any data or documentation relevant for repairs as well as specific tools have to be supplied to repair facilities at low to no costs. Information concerning repair-friendliness of a product has to be easy to spot for customers. Existing eco-labels should include durability and reparability.

(5) Public financing of the development of algorithm-based technology, including AI, has to be subordinated to the public interest. Only open source software AI projects should be publicly funded.

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