What is responsible consumption?
Responsible consumption or conscious consumption is a model for purchasing goods and services defended by different ecological, social and political organizations. Its central precept is the adoption, as consumers, of a commitment to the working, ecological and moral conditions behind the production of what is consumed.
In simpler terms, responsible consumption proposes that, when consuming, humanity should opt for goods and services whose manufacturing complies with certain ethical parameters, and not simply for the most economical product.
In general terms, the idea is not to consume those products whose manufacturers and marketers do not comply with the minimum requirements in terms of environmental conservation, worker well-being and socioeconomic equality.
It is based on the idea that buyers are also co-responsible for maintaining a specific production model. In other words, by consuming, we would be voluntarily or involuntarily perpetuating a way of doing things that harms people and the ecosystem.
Responsible consumption thus advocates a less passive attitude on the part of consumers, who could exert selective pressure on certain companies and industries, through boycott strategies, that is, by stopping buying their products and/or services.
To achieve this, the slogan “buying is voting” is often used to tell consumers that they should not buy anything from unscrupulous sectors that would never vote to govern their own country.
Origin of responsible consumption
Responsible consumption emerges as a counterpart to the consumerism unleashed during the 20th century, and the industrial transnationalization that preceded globalization; two phenomena that brought enormous dividends to the big capitalists, who privileged profitability over social justice and the preservation of the environment.
The effects of this way of doing things became noticeable after a certain time. On the one hand, economic, social and labor inequalities within countries increased. On the other hand, throughout the world, climate change and the massive loss of biodiversity on planet Earth accelerated.
As this occurred, what were initially isolated and local claims, by groups with little political and media power, began to gain notoriety.
The 1998 UNDP Human Development Report warned about the unsustainability over time of the current industrial development model, both in human and ecological terms.
Furthermore, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, it had already been agreed on the need to promote consumer initiatives that would respect the environment and allow the basic needs of the majority of humanity to be satisfied.
Since then, the concept of responsible consumption has continued to gain ground, although there are also those who oppose it or simply consider it utopian.
Benefits of responsible consumption
Responsible consumption is expected to:
- Promote a more equitable distribution of the world’s wealth, given that currently 1% of the population accumulates 82% of the total world wealth.
- Promote a work culture that views workers as dignified human beings, endowed with rights, to whom work should reward and offer improvements in their quality of life, not simply subject them to exploitative conditions.
- Promote respect for the delicate environmental balance, allowing renewable resources to be replenished at a sustainable rate, and managing within the limits of pollution and exploitation that allow the subsistence of life and do not threaten global biodiversity.
- Force large transnational capitals to review their business policies and fight on ethical terms to win over their clientele, instead of applying monopolistic criteria or simply flooding the market with advertising and unfair competition.
- Allow the construction of a sustainable development model in the short, medium and long term.
Examples of responsible consumption
As an example of responsible consumption, let’s cite some practical guidelines or principles from the point of view of any consumer:
- Before consuming, ask yourself if the product or service is really necessary or if it constitutes a superfluous expense whose benefits do not compensate for the global damage that its manufacture probably entailed.
- Find out about companies, find out which ones make efforts to carry out their business in a manner that is respectful of the environment and society in general, and prefer their products to those of companies that do not.
- Reject excess plastic: plastic bags, straws (straws, straws, straws), cutlery, plates, glasses, packaging, etc., to the minimum necessary, and opt for biodegradable substitutes, if available.
- As much as possible, apply the three Rs of ecology: reduce, reuse and recycle.
- Separate garbage between biodegradable and recyclable, and prioritize returnable containers over disposable ones.
- Do not consume products that have been tested on animals or produced through mechanisms of human exploitation or animal abuse.
- Opt for free software instead of monopolistic variants.