Consumers to be provided with information, such as a product’s true cost, to make value-based consumption decisions, ensuring that the moral and environmental impact of their choices is transparent.
Industrial economies and growing populations have led to increased levels of material consumption and growing production to meet ever-rising demand. Unprecedented post-World War II productive capacities and the rise of the advertising industry have created a global ‘consumer culture’ as the principle means of satisfying human desires and achieving happiness.
The conventional approach of ‘green consumerism’ has attempted to create only a preference for eco-friendly goods rather than addressing the cultural foundations of consumer demand. We have now reached a stage where this question must be directly tackled. Recognising the ecological and ethical consequences of economic actions, policy-makers must decide how to encourage consumers to make value-based consumption choices which do not threaten our shared future.
Tackling the illusion of value-free consumption goes hand-in-hand with steps to mandate eco-intelligent design and production. The implementation of policy solutions which simultaneously approach both supply and demand can help bring our societies to a positive-tipping point where material consumption and personal happiness are no longer intrinsically linked in the pursuit of personal fulfilment.
This does not abolish consumer choice. The full internalisation of currently externalised production costs would reflect the ‘true cost’ of a purchase. Provided with information about the full implications of their economic decisions, consumers would be encouraged to question their initial desires and be incentivised to balance these against the associated collective benefits and environmental harm. Consumer rights would then be matched with citizen responsibilities through value-based consumption.