Sheth et al. (2011) highlight the need for customer-centric approach to sustainability and introduce the concept of mindful consumption as a core element of the approach. They argue that businesses too often focus on environmental sustainability issues, take a reactive approach to social and economic dimensions of sustainability and ignore its primary stakeholder group, customers, in sustainability-related issues.
Customer-centric sustainability is introduced in the article as focusing on sustainability outcomes that are consequential for customers and result from customer-oriented business actions. Consumption is, thus, the center of determining these sustainability outcomes. Mindful consumption is introduced as a set of tangible and intangible facets of consumption – the behavior and mindset, that is, attitudes, values and expectations. The article argues that both behavior and mindset need to change in order to achieve progress in the field of sustainability and overconsumption.
This argument seems rational when thinking about the attitude-behavior gap discussed in previous lectures. Even though consumers may consider themselves being sustainable or would like to act sustainably, their behavior doesn’t necessarily meet these motives. Therefore, it may be even more important to change first the mindset of consumers towards sustainable consumption, which might then lead to more sustainable actions and behavior as well.
Mindful consumption is built on the consciousness of the thought and behavior about consequences of consumption. The mindset needs to be caring towards the self, community and nature, and with regards to behavior, temperance is a key element and relates to tackling the issues of acquisitive (acquiring things that exceed the needs), repetitive (buying, disposing and buying again) and aspirational (comparing oneself to more wealthy in terms of what one has) consumption.
I think these issues seem rather reasonable and understandable when reading about them, but acting accordingly in practice is not as easy; consumers’ habits, for example, may lead consumption behavior strongly, even unconsciously. There are many consumption practices that one may not even recognize doing. For example, one may be used to always buy the same brand or product and doesn’t even consider alternatives; one may be used to visit a certain service, say a hair dresser, every month without even thinking the possible consequences it has on sustainability; or one may be used to take a car to a grocery store without even realizing other possibilities. We all know that habits are hard to break, and that’s why focusing on changing the mindset becomes crucial in order to reach to mindful consumption in practice.
What the article suggests for mindful consumption practices for marketers is a whole new orientation. Over-marketing, aggressive pricing and promotions and over-hyped advertising needs to be replaced with proactive mindful consumption approaches such as facilitating and advancing mindful consumption.
If Lubin and Esty (2010) describe sustainability as the emerging megatrend, it may well be widened to customer-centric sustainability and mindful consumption in years to come.
Sheth, J. N., Sethia, N. K. & Srinivas, S. 2011. Mindful consumption: a customer-centric approach to sustainability. Journal of the Acadademic Marketing Science. 39:21–39.
Lubin, D. A. & Esty, D. C. 2010. The sustainability imperative. Harvard Business Review. 88(5): 42–50.