Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Role of Consumer Education in Achieving Sustainable Consumption Behavior


Sustainable Development Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns have been the recent topic of discussion in many nations. During the fourth session of the on-going United Nations Environmental Assembly, 2019 (UNEA 4 2019) – (whose theme was #SolveDifferent)- placed emphasis on the topic and most leaders especially in Africa committed to ensuring achievement of the goal to avoid an economic crisis in their countries.

The economic crisis has been experienced in most countries in the world. Factors such as global warming and energy crises change the habit and living standards of the consumers. On the other hand, factors like goods, services, brand, and the income level of the consumer, habit, and provident education lead the consumer towards expenditure other than their needs.

A consumer is a person or entity that purchases attain or invests in a product or service. Consumer education is the process of a buyer learning about the products and services she is considering to attain.

Our consumption choices are powerful decisions that we make in our everyday life; they shape markets and production patterns and have tremendous impacts on our natural resources and ecosystems as well as on our global community -contributing to issues such as climate change and human rights.

Education for sustainable consumption, an integral part of education for sustainable development, is essential to empower individuals and social groups with appropriate information on the impact of their daily choices as consumers.

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. Sustainable consumption is equally important to limit negative environmental and social externalities as well as to provide markets for sustainable products.

Sustainable life and development processes focus on conscious consuming attitude. To meet this behavior, consumer education concept is key. It is important in gaining the perspective of different customers.

It includes the education program and tools for every individual in the society to be a clever and conscious consumer, as well as a responsible citizen. Every buyer has a different consuming attitude. They learn new perceptions every day. Changing negative attitudes and thoughts is only possible through education.

Many factors have contributed to the need for sustainable consumption. Environmental degradation, whose primary driving force is population consumption and technology has reached proportions that require immediate action. Poverty remains rampant. Consumption by some people increases at the expense of others due to disproportionate distribution.

The globalization of media has revealed that the materialistic lifestyles of the most affluent groups in society are influencing attitudes and consumption patterns globally.

Marginalization is on the rise. Economic difficulties due to financial overextension and dependency increase. Crime is on the rise. Physical and mental health problems related to lifestyle choices have become global concerns.

Consumer education prepares people for life; for job security; for demands of a rapidly changing society; for technological changes. It provides knowledge, values, and skills to enable individuals and social groups to become actors of change towards more sustainable consumption behavior.

It further provides citizens with the appropriate information and knowledge on the social and environmental impacts of everyday work.

The main objective of utilizing consumer education is to ensure the basic needs of the community are met, quality of life is improved, inefficient use of resources and environmental degradation is minimized.

In Africa, Tanzania is among the countries that have adopted the initiative. Based on the success of Here and Now! Education for Sustainable Consumption-Recommendations and Guidelines, UNEP implemented a pilot project on the Institutional strengthening of Education for Sustainable Consumption between 2011 and 2015 in Chile, Indonesia, and Tanzania.

In the three countries, the project was successful and implementation was initiated.  With its main aim being “promoting the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development.” It also serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. UNEP, therefore, urges member countries to adopt the system to ensure sustainable consumption.

Countries are encouraged to support communication campaigns for information and awareness-raising among consumers. They should be aimed at encouraging eco-friendly consumption habits among its citizens. The inclusion of consumption programs into education schemes is another way countries can foster sustainability.

Teaching and developing curricula on sustainable development, which generally include material for promoting sustainable consumption is however the most effective. Some countries such as Italy and the United Kingdom, are supporting the development of sustainable schools to prepare young people for a lifetime of sustainable living through teaching and day-to-day practices.

Achieving sustainable consumption requires an understanding of consumer behavior and attitudes. People have different needs with respect to the information and their potential to be influenced by instruments and tools varies. Most have a positive but passive view of sustainable consumption. Consumer education is very important. It means protecting, giving confidence and enhancing the accountability of tomorrow’s consumers.



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