|MUMBAI GRAHAK PANCHAYAT’S
UNIQUE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM
A ROLE - MODEL FOR SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE
Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP), the Mumbai based largest registered voluntary consumer organization in India, has developed an innovative & unique model of distribution of grocery, based on Collective Buying and door-step delivery through Buying Groups. This model operating for last 35 years has stood the test of time and can be emulated as a role model for sustainable lifestyle of consumers. In fact, the Norwegian Environment Ministry, presented this model in their documentary “Mission Possible” before Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in New York in 1999. Interestingly, this model is being operated by volunteers of MGP on “No Loss, No Profit” basis and majority of volunteers being housewives from middle class families.
REDUCED FUEL CONSUMPTION, REDUCED CARBON EMISSION & REDUCED ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION: MGP’s unique distribution system, by its very nature, has been saving fuel every day, every month and every year. Let us look at the following figures:
In Mumbai alone, MGP caters to 1450 buying groups comprising of 16,700 families. For this purpose the tempos travel 8750 kilo meters per month. If this Distribution System was not available, then these 16,700 families would be required to go to market place to buy their grocery needs at least twice a month. The distance that they would be required to travel would be at least 2 kilo meters per return trip, making it at least 4 kilo meters per family per month. Thus it would entail transportation of 66,800 kms ( 16,700 families X 4 kms). However, MGP’s unique distribution system incurs only 8750 kilo meters transportation. It means a direct elimination of 58,050 kms transportation (66,800 kms – 8750 kms) and saving of 10, 000 litres of fuel (diesel) per month. Imagine the saving of fuel and consequent saving of carbon emission and reduction in environmental pollution every day, every month, and month after month and year after year! This is perhaps the single largest contributory factor of this model towards the sustainable lifestyle of consumers
ELIMINATION OF PLASTIC: MGP has been using cloth bags for packing wheat, rice and sugar which is being supplied to its more than 26,000 families every month. These cloth bags are being re-used over and over again. If these 3 commonly consumed commodities were to be packed in plastic bags it would have generated a demand of 55,000 plastic bags per month or 5,40,000 plastic bags per year. Considering that 35 plastic bags use 1 kg of plastic, 55,000 plastic bags would have used 1571 kgs of plastic per month or 18,857 kgs of plastic per year. Use of cloth bags for supplying wheat, rice and sugar in MGP’s unique distribution system thus effectively eliminates 1571 kgs of plastic every month or 18,857 kgs of plastic per year. The cloth bags used in the system are re-used normally for 18 months. This contribution of MGP of re-using cloth bags is also quite significant in developing s sustainable life style of consumers.
Usage of cloth bags has now become a life style for MGP’s more than 26,000 families. No wonder, these families will often be found in market place not only carrying cloth bags for their other purchases but be also seen telling other co-purchasers to desist from using plastic bags and explaining benefits of using cloth bags.
MGP’s mission to reduce plastic does not end here. MGP has been organizing annual Consumer Plaza for the benefit of not only its members but also the general public in the society. This Plaza brings producers / wholesalers and consumers face to face. This annual consumer plaza has become very popular event in Mumbai. MGP’s Consumer Plaza provides platform for small entrepreneurs and producers. Even social organizations doing noble work for cancer patients or leprosy patients are also given opportunities to sell their products at this Plaza. Goods for these plazas are selected meticulously and the prices are negotiated by the committee to give better value for money. Naturally thousands of consumers throng to these MGP’s Consumer Plazas held at four important locations for their annual purchases. MGP has totally banished Plastic from these Consumer Plazas and make available special non-woven fabric shoppy bags at reasonable rates. These specially made bags also prominently display eloquent messages for Sustainable Lifestyle and Environment Protection. No wonder, the response of consumers to these Shoppy Bags is spontaneous and overwhelming.
MGP firmly believes in sustainable consumption and hence promotes sustainable lifestyle of consumers through its distribution system. The entire system is based on the philosophy of:
Growth in production
Equity in distribution
Restrain in consumption
It deserves a special mention that MGP has been propagating the philosophy of “Restrain on Consumption” since 1975 when there was not even a murmur about the Sustainable Consumption at Global level. The concept of “Sustainable Consumption” is a modified version of “Restrain on Consumption”. MGP thus rightly deserves to be recognized as one of the pioneers promoting the concept of Sustainable Consumption since 1975.
MGP did not stop at preaching and propagating the philosophy of “Restrain on Consumption”, but in fact, practiced it through its distribution system by taking several small but concrete steps which contributed to sustainable consumption and sustainable lifestyle. Let us take a look at a couple of example:
CHEMICAL-FREE JAGGERY: Even while selecting the products in this distribution system, care is taken to avoid chemically hazardous products and ensure more environment-friendly products. Consumers, usually prefer jaggery with bright golden yellow color, which is chemically treated. However MGP has been supplying not-so-attractive dark brown coloured jaggery without any chemicals. Although there was initial resistance for such jaggery, MGP succeeded in educating and convincing its large membership about the use of such non-chemically treated jiggery. Thus, by reducing the demand of chemically treated jaggery substantially, MGP has also, in a small way, adversely impacted chemically treated jaggery production and production process and successfully promoted chemical-free jaggery.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT-FRIENDLY PRODUCTION: Tungi - The producer of pickles and jams - provides another interesting and environment-friendly example. The producer of these products observed that the tribals living in forest areas indulge in tree felling and wood cutting to earn their livelihood and thereby damage or destroy the environment. He therefore motivated them to pluck the fruits from these forest trees and started making jams, jellies and pickles which offered them handsome earnings. MGP, conscious of the environmental aspect and sustainable consumption, offered its large membership Tungi products made by these tribals and thus substantially promoted Tungi products in its distribution system and helped sustain a producer who was trying to sustain the environment.
DISCOURAGES WASTEFUL PACKAGING: Because of large-scale purchase, MGP has been able to influence even the packing of the products. In the case of number of products, MGP has prevailed upon the producers to do away with fancy packing. Girnar Tea is an example to quote. Similarly shampoo bottles, which are commonly found in fancy, attractive shapes and sizes have been done away with. Shampoos are provided in simple bottles for MGP members. As a result, MGP could offer a 500 ml bottle to its members for Rs. 25 as against a 100 ml fancy commercial shampoo costing Rs. 18. MGP also prevailed upon elimination of plastic bags for handkerchiefs.
Thus, to sum up, we can only say that:
LET US ACCEPT IT
THE GLOBAL WARMING MAY BE
“THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH”
BUT THE CONVENIENT WAY OUT IS
MGP’S UNIQUE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM
WE HAVE DONE IT.
WE ARE DOING IT FOR LAST 35 YEARS
YOU CAN ALSO DO IT.
LET’S DO IT TOGETHER
NOT ONLY FOR THE BENEFIT OF CONSUMERS,
BUT ALSO FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE SOCIETY
FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PLANET EARTH
FOR THE BENEFIT OF OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS.
LET US MAKE SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION
Contact: Shirish Deshpande,
Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP)
Grahak Bhavan, Sant Dnyaneshwar Marg,
JVPD Scheme, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai 400 056
India. Tel : 91 22 2628 1832/ 1839 email: firstname.lastname@example.org