Does Sustainable Consumption Behaviors Matter?


Recent research ‘Does sustainable consumption matter? Consumer grocery shopping behaviour and the pandemic’ a survey among Malaysian consumers were published in the Journal of Social Marketing by two senior lecturers in the Marketing Program of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Accountancy, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in collaboration with an Associate Professor from University College Sedaya International (USCI), Sarawak.

From the research it’s confirmed the imperative role of promoting sustainable consumption behavior among consumers will help to reduce panic and compulsive buying due to intolerance for the uncertainty during a crisis, for instance, the COVID 19 pandemic.

Sustainable consumption behavior is actions that result in decreases in adverse environmental, economic, and societal impacts as well as decreased utilization of natural resources across the lifecycle of the product, behavior, or service. Sustainable consumption behavior refers to major shifts in buying and consumption habits among consumers including consumers’ care for environmental well-being, care for the quality of life and care for future generations when they make purchase decisions.

These changes, however, lagged because customers preferred to stick with their established routines and excessive consumption in times of crisis. The COVID-19 outbreak, which made us re-evaluate every part of our lives, shook up this comfort. As a result, the current economic crisis looks to be the ideal time to move toward the sustainable consumer model. Nevertheless, to bring about a transformation in consumer behavior is not only an individual effort. It is a collective effort.

Dr. Bamini KPD Balakrishnan, Dr. Phang Ing@ Grace, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hiram Ting asserted that sustainable consumption behaviors reflect concern not only for environmental well-being but also for broader societal welfare, particularly as these behaviors relate to the quality of life and future generations.

During the pandemic, Asia Pacific witnessed an increase in online grocery shopping, immune-boosting medical supplies, and food delivery services. With the initial pandemonium of panic and compulsive buying, customers resorted to small, neighbourhood stores for fresh vegetables and needs.

Given that the COVID-19 pandemic is predicted to finish with a worldwide economic slump, it is crucial for retailers of all sizes to understand how they may influence and change consumer behaviour for the better, to prevent panic buying. Triggered by uncertainty, intense and short-term panic buying incidents are frequently reported in both local and international news. Many people encounter a sudden urge for stockpiling.

Among the highlights of the empirical study findings support the relationship between panic buying and compulsive buying, especially when panic buying is triggered by the possibility of movement controls. Compulsive buying which are additive and exaggerated behaviour that marks distress and results in financial and social problems.

Proper handling of panic buying, and compulsive buying behaviours are especially important in developing countries like Malaysia, where small- and medium-sized businesses make up the majority of grocery shops. Therefore, initiatives by the government, policymakers, and businesses to raise awareness amongst Malaysians via sustainable consumption campaigns and regulations will build a society that not only cares for the environment but also cares about societal well-being. This would inevitably attenuate panic and compulsive buying in times of crisis and uncertainty.

Some of the efforts that can be collectively executed are to educate younger generations about environmental concerns, mindfulness in the consumption process, and considering the quality of life and impacts of their consumption on future generations. Businesses, governments, and NGOs could engage in empowering consumers to have greater authority in making informed and conscious consumption choices that impact individual, social, and ecological well-being. Organizations and institutions can consider how best to promote and develop products, services, and programs that support sustainable and mindful consumption.

Our education system could promote sustainable consumption and mindful consumption to children and young generations against conspicuous consumption for better economic, societal and environmental well-being in times of uncertainty and crisis in the future.

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