Marketing for Positive Social Change


Embarking on a mission for a greener tomorrow, Faculty of Business, Economics and Accountancy (FBEA), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) students initiated the "Strawvolution: Metal Straws for Sustainable Future" and “Do something Drastic, reduce the Plastic” project as part of their Social Marketing course, taught and guided by Dr. Bamini KPD Balarishnan. The idea behind the social marketing course is to bring positive social behavioural change within the community by using marketing principles. Dr. Bamini emphasises that marketing techniques and strategies can be applied to advance societal wellness rather than just increase business profits.

The “Strawvolution campaign was conducted in SMK Bandaraya among the form 4 students. This environmentally conscious initiative advocates for a simple yet impactful change swapping plastic straws for reusable metal alternatives. This campaign fulfils the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

The project's core message revolves around the detrimental environmental effects of single-use plastic straws. By encouraging fellow students to adopt metal straws, Strawvolution seeks to curb the alarming plastic waste that plagues our ecosystems. Plastic straws, often in landfills and oceans, contribute significantly to pollution and harm marine life. The metal straw alternative presented by the project serves as a tangible step towards reducing this ecological footprint. The call to action resonates the core principles of UMS Eco-campus community, urging students to reconsider their daily habits in reducing the consumption of plastic. Participants were urged to embrace metal straws as a sustainable choice, emphasizing the long-term benefits of reducing plastic consumption. This social marketing campaign was executed by a team of student in collaboration with the Kota Kinabalu Environment Department (Jabatan Alam Sekitar) represented by Mdm. Chai Hsieh Nee who gave the talk on the negative consequences of plastic straws to the environment.

The social marketing campaign not only tackles the environmental crisis but also instils a sense of responsibility and awareness among secondary students, fostering a culture of mindful consumption. Strawvolution's impact extends beyond the immediate environmental sphere. It serves as an educational platform, enlightening students about the broader implications of their choices. The project encourages critical thinking about the lifecycle of everyday items and how individual decisions contribute to global issues. By actively participating in Strawvolution, students not only reduce their plastic waste but also become ambassadors for sustainable practices within their social circles. In the spirit of unity and shared responsibility, Strawvolution underscores the importance of collective action in addressing environmental challenges. Through this initiative, UMS students are not just embracing metal straws; they are contributing to a broader movement for sustainable living and paving the way for a more environmentally conscious future.

On the other hand, another dynamic team of student from the same Social Marketing course taught by Dr. Bamini with were at the forefront of a meaningful environmental movement in Kota Kinabalu. In collaboration with the Kota Kinabalu City Council, Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu (DBKK) and Eco-Campus UMS, this dedicated group was promoting social change through their impactful "Do Something Drastic, Cut the Plastic" campaign.

The team of student orchestrated a compelling campaign at Servay 1Borneo, where they distributed informative flyers and eco-friendly reusable bags. Through engaging directly with the community, the team sought to cultivate awareness and inspire individuals to adopt sustainable practices, thereby minimizing their dependence on single-use plastics.

A pivotal moment in their campaign was a talk held on December 18, 2023, at the Foyer of FBEA, UMS. The event featured esteemed panelists, Mr. Leong Tze Fui, Director of the Department of Solid Waste Management at DBKK, and Dr. Robert Francis Peters, Director of Eco-Campus UMS.

During the event, the student actively participated in discussions, underscoring their commitment to fostering environmental responsibility within the university and the broader community. Their mission is about reducing plastic consumption and inspiring a sustainable mindset among fellow students and beyond. With the distinctive name ‘Do something drastic, reduce Plastic,' this student group is dedicated to making a tangible impact. Their presence at Servay 1Borneo and their involvement in the public talk epitomize the potency of grassroots movements led by enthusiastic students. As they continue to spearhead initiatives, the serves as a beacon for change, encouraging a shift towards more eco-conscious habits and contributing to a sustainable and environmentally responsible future in Kota Kinabalu.

According to Dr. Bamini, both the social marketing campaigns have reached the objective to bring enlightenment and positive behavioural change among the consumer in Kota Kinabalu, to be more responsible and mindful in their effort to support the SDG12 by 1. Reducing plastic waste and 2. Being thoughtful about what consumer buy and choosing a sustainable option whenever possible. The campaign ensure consumer reduce the consumption of plastic—one of the main pollutants of the ocean. Carrying a reusable bag, refusing to use plastic bags and straws are good habits for consumer in Kota Kinabalu city to do their part.

Making informed purchases also helps. For example, the textile industry today is the second largest polluter of clean water after agriculture, and many fashion companies exploit textile workers in the developing world. If you can buy from sustainable and local sources, you can make a difference as well as exercising pressure on businesses to adopt sustainable practices. Through executing the social marketing campaign, the FBEA, UMS students have gained problem solving, leadership, teamwork and professionalism skills for life-long learning experience and become a responsible business professionals in the future.

(Article by Dr. Bamini KPD Balakrishnan, Senior Lecturer at Faculty of Business, Economics and Accountancy UMS)

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