This chapter examines green consumerism and its implications for human welfare and the environment. The analysis begins with a simple model of rational choice to demonstrate that economics can yield insights into consumption that are not as simplistic as those built into many conventional model. The standard model of rational choice, and its expansion to take into consideration non-welfarist concerns for the environment, yields an optimistic view of green consumerism and its potential to deliver more sustainable consumption patterns. In essence, it contributes an overly optimistic understanding, according to which sensitizing consumers to environmental values and concerns, brings about a change of values to change the behavior. Models that recognize the interdependence of consumer choices substantiate the promise of green consumerism and strongly remind the fragility of the promise of green consumerism. These models also demonstrate that it may be costly for consumers to change their consumption patterns may be costly. The public policy may expand opportunity sets and alter the relative costs and benefits of alternatives. The worrying aspect of green consumerism is its potential transformation into an elitist alternative lifestyle.
- Background of the study
Promoting sustainable consumption and production are important aspects of sustainable development, which depends on achieving long-term economic growth that is consistent with environmental and social needs. Most government policies in this area focus on stemming the environmental impacts of unsustainable industrial production practices, primarily through regulations and taxes. Promoting sustainable consumption is equally important to limit negative environmental and social externalities as well as to provide markets for sustainable products. In this study, sustainable refers to both the environmental (pollution, waste, resource use) and social (health, welfare) characteristics of products. It focuses on consumption by households and governments. It discusses government tools and instruments (e.g. standards, taxes, subsidies, communications campaigns, education) put in place to encourage sustainable consumption. It also discusses approaches for protecting consumers from misleading information on sustainability in areas such as labelling, advertising and corporate reporting. The trend towards considering the social dimensions of sustainable consumption has led to more attention to how products are produced. Consumers are increasingly concerned with not only the polluting or health effects of the consumption of products, but also the impacts which that consumption may have on the factors of production, including workers and resources. As a result, sustainable consumption policies and initiatives are broadening to take into account the effects of processes as well as products and the provision of services as well as goods. Green consumerism is an interesting and important object of analysis for several reasons. First, consumer choices have a significant effect on the environment and, therefore, also a potential to alleviate environmental problems. Secondly, green consumerism and lifestyles (see e.g. Elgin, 1993) are becoming fashionable and the belief in their ability to improve environmental outcomes is increasingly widely shared. Finally, attention in both scholarship and international policy arenas is moving toward consumption. It is increasingly felt that the potential of regulation of production is either not sufficient to remedy environmental problems or is already largely exhausted (see e.g. Cogoy, 1999; Crocker and Linden, 1998; Georg, 1999; Jackson and Marks, 1999; OECD, 1997a, 1997b, 1998; Røpke, 1999). Economics is not by any means an obvious candidate for other social scientists to gain deeper understanding of consumer behaviour. After all, economic theorising in its usual form is based on narrow and counterfactual assumptions concerning human behaviour, which render consumption as an object of analysis devoid of symbolic and social dimensions. In essence, the traditional economic approach has viewed consumption as a string of rational choices that individuals make to maximise their personal welfare without regard to the consequences of their choices for other humans and non-humans and without regard to the choic- 2 es made by others and their consequences. Even economists themselves have sometimes considered the theory of consumer choice as an area of research, which has not developed essentially since the mid-20th century (reference, 19xx). Yet some relatively recent developments in economics promise to make it more amenable and fruitful for the kinds of inquiries into consumption that interest other social scientists. These developments include the recent revival of the interest in the study of interdependent consumer choices, originally pioneered by Thorstein Veblen at the turn of the 20th century (see e.g. Corneo and Jeanne 1997; Frank 1985, 1991; Veblen 1899). The role of consumption as the cultural expression of capitalism is somewhat ambiguous in contemporary critiques of capitalism (cf. Forna¨s, 2013; Zick Varul, 2013). On the one hand—the hand of classic critical theory—consumption desires represent the false needs the system produces to chain us to endless processes of self-recreation and actualization through consumption. In this line of argument, consumer desire loses sight of its real needs. Consumer desire is productive but also problematic, precisely because what it demands is always irreducible to need. As Zˇizˇek (1993: 212) puts it, ‘‘if we subtract need from demand, we get desire.’’ Thus, from a critical theory perspective, capitalism’s destructiveness is sustained by creating an excess of demand that is never satisfied by the system, despite expanding production capacity and efficiencies. On the other hand, consumerism represents—even in its excesses—the potential to feel free, to make autonomous choices, to find a modicum of hedonistic enjoyment in what might be an otherwise empty existence, and perhaps even to further socialist human development (Laermans, 1993; Soper et al., 2008; Zick Varul, 2013). What both critiques share, however, is a realization that in the final analysis, capitalist consumer culture must always be excessive. That is to say that capitalism and relentless economic growth depend on the (re)production of consumption levels that always represent less than what consumers demand, and this excessive consumption is problematic to the very capitalist system it is a product of. Consider how excessive consumption has a leading role in bringing us to the brink of ecological catastrophe (see Chomsky, 1999; Klein, 2014; Pearce, 2009). It is with these paradoxical implications in mind that Marcuse stated that the consumer, whose surplus of desire always exceeds the capacity of the system to deliver, might become capitalism’s gravedigger (Marcuse, 1972). From this perspective, we can see that the relationship between capitalism and consumption is not as straightforward as it appears. As Marcuse’s statement suggests, capitalist consumption always contains—even in its most excessive and immanent expression—the potential for its own negation. The suspicion that consumption can be the problem as much as the solution to capitalism’s many ills and evils has been the driving force behind a relatively small but growing segment of consumers who integrate notions of ethics, social justice, and environmental sustainability into their consumption practices. This, of course, has brought interest from a group of business scholars interested in the question of ethical consumption (e.g. Devinney et al., 2010; Szmigin et al., 2009; Thompson and Coskuner-Balli, 2007). While diverse in focus and approach, this body of research collectively asks how consumers—or more precisely, how everyday consumption practices—might be enlisted for broader projects of social change (e.g. Harrison et al., 2005; Jones, 2012; Micheletti and McFarland, 2011; Stolle and Micheletti, 2013, for a critical perspective, see e.g. Chatzidakis et al., 2012; Littler, 2008; Sassatelli, 2006). Another area of research in the interstices of economics and philosophy has made space for non-welfarist behavioral motivations and examined their implications for economic analysis (see e.g. Sen 1977, 1979; Anderson 1993, Kavka, 1991, 1993). Finally, the ever more popular game theory provides a heuristic framework for integrating these new trends in economics.
- STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Consideration of the conditions under which ethical consumption is possible has now moved to center stage in academic and policy debates accompanied by the growing realization that significant environmental and social challenges—such as climate change and worker exploitation—are directly related to human consumption activities (Hargreaves, 2011; Swim, 2009). This move has illuminated one of the most vexing and perplexing aspects of ethical consumerism: while a significant percentage of consumers state that they intend to shop in line with ethical considerations following through on these intentions is rare (Auger and Devinney, 2007; Belk et al., 2005; Szmigin et al., 2009). It is in view of the above that the researcher decide to investigate the economic and ethical concerns for the environment in consumers choice.
- OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The main objective of this study is to examine the ethical concern for the environment in consumers choice; to aid the completion of the study the researcher intends to achieve the following specific objective;
- To investigate the effect consumers choice on the safety of the environment
- To ascertain influence of ethical concern for the environment on the choice of consumers
- To examine the relationship between consumers choice and environmental protection
- To proffer suggested solutions to the identified problems
- RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
To aid the completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;
H0: Consumer’s choice does not have any effect on the safety of the environment
H1: Consumer’s choice does have an effect on the safety of the environment
H02: there is no significant relationship between consumers choice and environmental protection
H2: there is a significant relationship between consumers choice and environmental protection
- SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
It is believed that at the completion of the study the findings will be of benefit to the government in formulating policies that will curb the ever Increasing consumer groups based on better understanding of social and economic behavior. Mixes of instruments tend to be more effective in promoting sustainable consumption in certain product groups. The complexity and array of government tools and initiatives directed at sustainable consumption underline the need for more integrated programs as well as institutionalization of sustainable consumption in sustainable development strategies.
- SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The scope of the study covers economics and ethical concern for the environment in consumer’s choice. In the cause of the study, there were some factors which limited the scope of the study;
(a) Availability of research material: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study.
(b) Time: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
(c) Finance: The finance available for the research work does not allow for wider coverage as resources are very limited as the researcher has other academic bills to cover
1.7 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
A problem or situation that requires a person or organization to choose between alternatives that must be evaluated as right (ethical)
Environment is everything that is around us. It can be living or nonliving things. It includes physical, chemical and other natural forces. Living things live in their environment.
1.8 ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows
Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study. Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature. Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding. Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study
This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research
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