Can marketing improve sustainability?

I unfortunately missed the first lecture on monday but I would still like to give my thoughts about this course and its content. Professor Belz’s lecture gave a good snapshot of how our society has changed over the decades into a consumer society. In fact it has changed so fast that we are having a lot of trouble keeping our own system from over heating. If you take a look at the population and oil usage growth graphs one might start to think that this can be now way healthy for the environment. For thousands of years human population has been steadily growing and people have been living in a world of plenty. After industrialization the situation changed and population growth sky rocketed. We experienced new technologies we’ve never experienced before and obtained wealth levels we never dreamed about. 20th century was golden age for many nations in terms of wealth creation and there were no physical limits on this planet. Now things have changed but we still live and follow the same routines as we did decades ago. Consumption increases production and production increases economic wealth. Thus consumption is good. But what about sustainability?

During my studies here in Aalto School of Business, there has been a lot of talk about decoupling the environmental stress from economic growth. So far it has not been sufficient. Even though we are doing some decoupling, the absolute value of environmental stress is increasing. But when you read newspapers or watch TV, sustainability seems to be a big trend every where. Politicians think that climate change is real and it has to be stopped. Unethically and unsustainably acting companies are getting into trouble. Companies are applying CR strategies and so on but when it comes to economy, only GDP matters. Suddenly everything else is secondary when our purchasing power decreases. Time to negotiate higher wages then. This is what I read from todays Kauppalehti, Finnish business newspaper. There has been a lot of talk about putting salaries into freeze in order to correct our current account. But for the labour unions freezing salaries isn’t an option. We should increase our purchasing power instead of keeping salary raises stable for couple of years. That put me to think about the situation. Economic-wise it made sense but why would we wan’t people to purchase more? To me however it seems like to problem is not that we consume more or grow more. To me the problem is what we consume and how do we grow. Growth and consumption cannot be intrinsic values. Instead the quality of growth and consumption should be. This brings me back to decoupling and sustainability marketing. I hope that this course will give me more knowledge about how should we market the right products and services with the right way and make economic and environmental decoupling more effective. It all starts at the point when we can recognize the unnecessary from the necessary.

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