Guest blog post: Consumerism vs Sustainability

The following blog post was written by Carlos, an MA Design for Development student for a CSR module. It is a topic that really interests me, especially when theories are applied to the subject matter. I wanted to share his executive summary here but please note that any comments will be passed straight onto Carlos.

Consumerism vs Sustainability

Debate on Consumer Ethics & Innovative Practices Promoting Sustainable Business,

by Carlos Fierro, Industrial Designer,
MA Design for Development KU

Research shows that consumerism includes not only individuals, but also organizations and governments and all agents that participate in production and consumption. The ethical debate surrounding consumerism is framed by applying the perspectives of the theory of ethics and duties, stakeholder theory and from the egoist perspective. A theoretical analysis illustrates that all the agents that participate in production and consumption have the duty to make ethical decisions supporting the preservation of the environment and social responsibility. To empower the decision makers to make ethical decisions, it is fundamental that organizations and governments provide and reinforce the decision-making process with the necessary information. The Stakeholder analysis shows that consumers should be considered the most important stakeholders in any business, and maintains that marketing plays an important role in that matter. Marketing communications is one area that has the power to build relationships of exchange, to understand needs, and generate fair communicational strategies. From the utilitarian perspective, consumer behavior based on an egotistic ethical approach to production and consumption might be unethical since the decisions made based on short-term outcomes can harm the environment and be socially irresponsible.

It is important that companies are aware of the conventions and laws that have evolved over time to protect consumers and the environment and that they adjust their business practices accordingly. Moreover, the development of green marketing and other alternatives of ethical consumption might assist consumers in making better informed decisions to choose more sustainable products and services. To embrace this challenge it is essential to educate the public about the social and environmental impact of consumption while considering cultural differences in the delivery and acquisition of knowledge.

The full report recommends that businesses consider new innovative modalities of collaborative trading and that they should endeavour to learn more about consumer needs and desires, and consider how the consumer organically participates in patterns of exchange. The rapid development of new technologies and consumer dynamics makes this recommendation possible and cost effective for businesses. Moreover, companies should consider new value systems in trading and consumption for the development of more sustainable businesses and products; considering for example the durability, exchange, cooperation, recycling and the evolving life of products.

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