DEVELOPMENT | Why Sustainable Consumption is not enough25.4.13
|Taken from Darren Willman|
Before I start, I wish to state that although my title might seem somewhat defeatist, this article does not argue against Sustainable Consumption, but against the idea that somehow sustainable and ethical consumerism is enough to solve all the world's woes. When we think of sustainable consumption images of Fairtrade packets (the yummy chocolates) and organic labels we find in the supermarkets come immediately to mind. However, like the image above states: Ethical [sustainable] consumerism is still consumerism. So, what is it that really needs to change?
As I was reading the OECD's report on Promoting Sustainable Consumption, it dawned on me that, whilst promoting sustainable consumption is good, we are taking away from a larger issue of tackling the real offenders to environmental and social decline--i.e. the main large scale economic drivers. I believe that individuals should contribute, but by asking the individual consumer to take on the responsibility of fixing the world's environmental and social issues is unrealistic and very much problematic. Individual actions, WILL have an affect on small bodies--i.e. local neighbourhoods and local-level government bodies in the best case scenario--but have not yet been proven to make its mark on larger social issues. It is our hope that individual actions which influence local bodies, can then act as a catalyst for discussions on a wider forum.
I am a big fan of the Story of Stuff Project. It was probably one of the first things I watched before making this attempt at living an ethical lifestyle, and man was this particular video eye-opening. I knew that shopping responsibly wouldn't change the world, but I still believe it makes a difference to someone's life, even if only my own. However, during these past two years it was evident that the individual consumer buying ecologically and socially sound goods was good, but not the solution to the problem it claims to solve.
I would walk into the supermarkets and scour the stores to find the few Fairtrade items they had (I don't shop at the organic section, but I do buy my vegetables from the small green grocers who I believe in more than corporate organic labels). As a sustainable international development specialist (I think I just made that up) this is a great place to start, but if we think that this is where it should end then it definitely negates from the issue of sound environmental and social policies and actions that need to be made from the government and corporate levels.
So where do we stand? What am I really trying to tell the reader who is embarking on being an Ethical Consumer? Continue shopping as ethically and sustainably as possible, but we should also strive to one day be citizens and not individuals when it comes to creating and being change. This is only the beginning, the starting point before we can really make an impact on this ideology we are trying to promote.