This report is a consumer research project. It provides advice on sustainable consumption to a client who seeks to examine and identify the motivation and desires of people who consume sustainably. This will be done in two parts. The first part will examine and review the main factors that affect consumers in choosing to undertake sustainable consumption. The second part will be a set of recommendations on how sustainable consumption can be effectively promoted.
Part 1: Key Factors Affecting Consumers in Choosing Sustainable Consumption
There are several perceptions of the concept of “sustainable consumption”. One definition states that it is “the use of products and services that have a minimal impact on the environment so future generations can meet their needs”. This means that it is an attempt to consume products that will minimize the environment footprints of our generation. This is based on the assumption that land and natural resources are not for one generation – they are for our generation, the past generation and future generations unborn. Therefore, people believe that we must be cautious and not overuse our ability to enjoy the present generation.
Most consumers are moved by the need to curb the greed of capitalism in our generation. This is because there has never been a generation that is more technologically advanced than ours – more technology has been developed over the past 70 years than the 3,000 years before that so we have the capability of destroying this world by exploiting and exploring the resources. This could be detrimental and leave future generations with nothing. And since we all live for the betterment of the lives of our children, there is the need to exercise some degree of temperance. Thus, consumers are sensitive to the need to be less destructive to the environment and think of the unborn who will also have an equal right to enjoy the world as we have also enjoyed it because of the responsibility of past generations. Therefore, the fundamental reason for sustainable consumption is based on the need to leave the world in a good state for future generations to also enjoy the benefits of the natural resources that we have in our own time.
There are various social and environmental reasons why people choose to partake in sustainable consumption. Several studies have been conducted into the reasons and motivation for sustainable consumptions. There are different reactions from different parts of the world on why consumers pursue these goals. The table below shows the responses from a major study done on 6,224 consumers in Brazil, China, India, Germany, the United States and the UK and these were their responses:
This shows that the vast majority of the consumers of sustainably produced products do so because of the fundamental reason. However, there are different levels of strictness and interest that each group of consumers attribute to the products. There is a first group that is made up of radical and fundamentalists who consume these products because they believe it is the best and only way. These strict sustainable consumers view it as an obligation and a strong desire for them to consume nothing but products that are sustainably produced and responsibly processed. This is an obligation to them and they have nothing to do with other products that are not produced sustainably. They will purchase even if they are extremely expensive. However, this class is just less than 20% of all consumers and as such, they are people who will eat sustainably produced products or have a bad conscience. These are morally inspired consumers.
Then there are those who are worried and sensitive to the bills and prices of sustainably produced products. If the prices are so high, they will consider other alternatives. They do not feel bound by the same kind of moral urgency to shun all other forms of foods to eat only sustainably produced foods. Hence, these individuals are sensitive to prices. If prices are unreasonable, they are likely to purchase other products that are not sustainably produced at the expense of the extra price. Therefore, they are very particular about the prices.
There are also those who are unconscious and are not even aware of the importance of sustainable production. However, by some form of coincidence, they tend to purchase sustainably produced products. These consumers might be attracted by features other than those related to sustainability. But from someway or through some means, they are able to get it right and through some coincidence, they are able to purchase sustainable product sand this helps them to fulfill the obligations of the conscious – that is to preserve the natural environment and ensure the world is kept productive and positive even in difficult times.
Another category of consumers are motivated by the need to maintain some kind of status and show the world that they consume healthy and sustainable foods. This is because such persons have assumed a kind of identity – usually as vegans, organic food consumers, and green consumers and they always expect to show the world that they are more likely to eat sustainable foods and use sustainable products as opposed to products that are “irresponsibly” produced and sourced. However, in cases where the prices are too high and they have no other alternative, they do not make other sacrifices as the people in the hardcore class would. They will find a way of paying for other products but will do so in a way that will protect their reputation and status. This is also not like the other class that have a conscience but are not so bothered about their status. This class is more focused on the status they are going to bring out there.
Thus, from this narrative and analysis above, it can be identified that the main factors that define the shopping habits and consumption patterns for those who utilize sustainable products is based on four intervening factors:
Status attainment and
These are pointers that lay the foundation for the market segmentation as far as sustainable consumption is concerned. There are those who do so as a moral or lifestyle choice. And this provides a major reason and a major class where people seem to follow sustainable consumption religiously as a religious person might follow a religious dietary law. This becomes a part of a person’s life and people in this category choose because they have no other life but to consume sustainably produced products.
The second group are those who are skeptical, but have it at the back of their mind that they are going to do some good by buying products that are sustainably sourced. This category of consumers are more prone to the availability of such products and eat them to ease their conscience as opposed to trying to prove a point or get their lives controlled by such products.
Then status is about belonging to a certain class or unique group of people. Those who seek to view consumption as some kind of green activity that separates them from others. However, these people might not be so affluent or willing to make deep sacrifices as hardcore and strong people might do. This leads to gaps that are often filled by the availability of the products.
Finally, there are many people who base their decision or choice on the price. Generally sustainably produced products are expensive. And due to that, many people are not able to afford them unless they have a high earning capability. And this is the main dividing factor that separates most responsible people from less responsible persons and this leads to major problems and issues that causes consumers to make choices. Most of these choices separates the world of sustainable consumers from non-sustainable consumers.
Aside this, there is a large percentage of people who accidentally purchase sustainably produced products. These consumers are often not sensitive to the facts. They just need a product for several reasons, but they tend to end up with sustainably produced products based on some other pointers that might be different from the needs of other people. These are pointers that demand a lot of attention and connection that might not exist in the normal sense, but happens from time to time due to situations at hand.
Part 2: Recommendations to effectively promote Sustainable Consumption
In order to achieve high levels of sales of sustainably produced and sourced products, there is the need for some kind of communication and interaction to be formulated to link the consumers and get them interested in the products. There must be three kinds of communication:
Long-term broad level communication;
Intermediate or product oriented communication;
On-the-spot purchase communication
All these communications must aim at influencing the consumer on different levels and different standards in their product purchase decision stage. Some stages require direct communication whilst others require general and broad communications that will get consumers to think and consider sustainable products.
Product oriented communication must aim at convincing consumers. Consumers must understand that they are making a significant contribution to the continuation of the human race and the entire world by purchasing sustainable products. This way, they will see themselves as helping future generations by buying the product. This will include price and communication for various people who might have the desire to purchase these sustainable products. These messages must be strongly entrenched and linked to every single product a company produces and sells through a sustainable production system.
Finally, there must be immediate communication pointers that will be used to differentiate sustainable products from non-sustainable products. This includes the provision of labeling and other services that are direct and conspicuous for consumers to see and understand the need to think twice about checking other options. This could be a short description of how the product was made or the benefit a person is making to nature which is conspicuously written on a product in a shop. This will set the product apart from other products. Furthermore, there could be things like a quick customer care service that will be provided directly through the providers of the services. This will enable consumers with questions to ask them and get quick answers. The respondents to these questions must be well versed in matters relating to consumption and how sustainable products can make a difference to the world. This will help to provide education that will convince consumers to become more sensitive to product choices and choose a company’s product ahead of others.
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