Sustainable Consumption: The Responsibility of Consumers and Producers The fact that the world is now facing massive population growth and overconsumption has made the threat of scarcity becomes never more real than before. The pressure to maintain sustainable consumption is echoing everywhere. This suggests the need for active involvement from the demand side of the market in safeguarding sustainability, through sustainable consumption.
Attempting to align the understanding about sustainable consumption, in 1994, the Oslo Symposium defines sustainable consumption as: the use of goods and services that respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life, while minimizing the use of natural resources, toxic materials and emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle, so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations.
(Ministry of The Environment Norway 1994) Extracting the above definition, this writing will critically evaluate on the statement that suggests “the responsibility of sustainable consumption practice bears by both consumers as the agent of demand and producers as the agent of supply”.
In delivering the evaluation, firstly, this writing will address the role of consumers and producers towards consumption, followed by a discussion on the connection between consumption, production, and the environment.
Further, this writing will then embody consumers and producers’ role as well as relationship into the notion of sustainable consumption. Finally, this writing suggests that sustainable consumption will never be achieved without the sound entanglement between consumers and producers as two major players in the market.
Consumers’ Role towards Consumption
In the market, consumers’ sovereignty plays a major role in the consumption cycle (Fuchs & Lorek 2005; Ikerd 2012). Indicating that consumer owns full control in deciding what goods and services to consume.
Luchs et al. (2010) findings capture that preferences on consumption are mostly related with consumers’ perspective on needs. Sadly, nowadays, what consumers’ state as need is not genuine need; instead, what they refer as need is actually a justification of want.
Thus, some believe that this inappropriate view has led the growing culture of consumerism. The growing culture of consumerism is alarming towards the planet’s sustainability, as consumerism that described by overconsumptions has substantial influence towards productions of goods and services (Ottman 2011).
Here the condition of consumerism can exacerbate the planet sustainability with the fact that the world is facing massive economic and population growth. In relation with economic growth, The World Economic Forum (2012) predicts that by 2030, nearly 60% of the world’s population or around 3 billion people will be categorized as middle-income earners. Clearly, this would be a massive economic power with massive purchasing power to contribute towards consumerism and overconsumption.
Regarding population growth, The United Nations (2013) foreseen that by 2050 the world population will reach 9.6 billion. Whilst in the perspective of business, this imperative growth is deemed to be a massive growth of demand, however, this also lead to the question of whether the ability of the environment, will be able to support such gigantic demands.
As Mahatma Gandhi states “earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”. If its only needs, so what about our consumption pattern driven by wants? One thing for sure is that the factors of economy and population growth that contribute to the massive increase of demand will certainly put consumption in a more intimidative position towards sustainability.
Producers’ Role towards Consumption
The intersection between production and consumption cycle exists when the output of production becomes the input of consumption. For consumers, producers have an important role as the providers for any goods and services they needs.
This role, according to Peterson & Norton (2007) is derived from the capability of producers in identifying, responding, and providing consumers’ demand. Further, in regard to environmental degradation, they state that producer is only the ‘enabler’ for consumers to give impact to the environment. Further, producers are not the original source of the problem in the environment.
Irresponsible consumption is the original source of problem as producers are only an ‘enabler’ for realizing consumers’ demand. Realizing their role as provider for consumers, producers highly understand on how to benefitting from consumer sovereignity. Indeed, nobody can force consumers on what to consume.
However, consumer sovereignity doesn’t mean that consumer couldn’t be persuaded to consume something . In fact, billions of dollars spent every year in advertisement and marketing campaign to persuade customers to buy goods and services produced by corporations.
Not only they want consumers to buy their products, but essentially producers’ are also attempting to shape customers’ demand and consumption to assure sustainable demand for their products . Moreover, as a fuel to smooth its persuassion to consumers, producers exploits human’s hidden psychological aspects to redefine their needs.
For instance, I buy a new arrival dress to be categorized as fashionable (need for belongingness); I buy a new dress so that I will not worry to be perceived outdated (need for esteem); I buy the new dress because the style help me to be identified as me, differentiated from others (need for selfe actualization).