Less is better and simple is beauty; who could deliver?

What seems to be a problem in “green and sustainability communications” in my mind is that the information and knowledge is available, but people still don’t make these choices. What gives? We don’t care enough? I don’t want to believe this, I think we do care. It is just so hard to act according to this. These reasons that make caring harder, we went through during Monday’s lecture: selective vs. primary motives; selective motives wins most of the times, personal values, attitudes, beliefs and norms lead to certain behavior even though it might not be rational, our emotions are easily manipulated and we even do it ourselves to rationalize behaviors we would not like to see us doing, but we do it anyway. For example; throwing garbage to the street, I would not like to do it but since I don’t see a garbage bin within ten meters there is no alternative but to throw it to the street, besides everyone else seem to do it also. It must be ok then. Caring becomes hard because one needs to do things that require effort and usually go against the thinking of the self.

A way to try to go around this problem of caring enough to do “green or sustainable choices” is the customer-centric approach to sustainability given in the article “Mindful consumption: a customer-centric approach to sustainability” by Seth, Sethia & Srinivas (2011). Here the product tries to communicate so that the “green and sustainable choices” are not separate from the choices that are aimed for one’s self well-being. The choices that consumer has to make when choosing from different products or different services, should not be any different from those that aim to self well-being. I think that we are already there, I think that marketing has moved towards communicating; better for you, better for our planet. We are already aware that making these “green and sustainable choices” we increase our own well-being. But still it is not enough. We still don’t do always what’s best for ourselves too.

As we were talking on Monday in the class room about how hard it is to make “green energy choices”, I started to understand for the first time those consumers who prefer to not over analyze their choices. I know this consumer type because I have lived with one the past eight years. For me, acting according to my beliefs and values of sustainability, it sometimes becomes an overwhelming task that doesn’t have an end. Deciding to whether to by organic Spanish tomatoes or Finnish regular ones is hard, and that’s only the starting point of doing grocery shopping. No matter how hard I’m trying to think the well-being of me and my family, it gets very complicated surprisingly fast. Choosing between different products from the label jungle and trying to weigh their importance against each other, when the products are not comparable with different labels of organic, eco-friendly, natural etc. Making educated choices becomes laborious. I dare to say that due to all this label mess and complexity of comparing different products to each other, people become indifferent towards these issues, which is a shame. Less is better and simple is beauty goes here too. With no mutual rules of the use of less and co-coordinated labels, people will rely on their own simple beliefs and habits or lean to the safety of indifference. But are the companies even ready to put their products openly for comparison? And who is the right source of setting the rules for wider use? Delivering these solutions to customers would have an impact on communicating sustainability and consumer behavior on a wider scale.

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