« View All Blog Posts

Sustainable Consumerism: Oxymoron…?
By Michael Schweibinz

Over the past decade or so, two buzzwords have emerged to describe the best of human aspirations—“sustainability” and “innovation.”

Businesses and individuals are constantly talking about how to be “more sustainable,” and yet research has shown that consumers don’t walk their talk. The irony is that consumerism has lacked innovation. While firms have been innovating at an unprecedented rate, generally, consumers have not changed the way they purchase—not much, anyway.

A recent study by BBMG, SustainAbility, and GlobeScan, shows a large gap between thoughts and purchasing decisions. The study demonstrated that “65% [of consumers] agreed that they feel a sense of responsibility to purchase products that are good for the environment and society.” However, “75% of consumers claimed they would buy more responsible products if [only] they performed as well as or better than products they usually buy, and 70% said they shouldn't cost more.” Clearly, positive impact falls short of performance or price in the purchasing decision.

It may be too late for this Black Friday, but consumers need to fundamentally change consumption behavior in the years to come. Since World War II, constant consumption has become a way of life. It has developed into ritual where, “things [are] consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.”

The challenge for society is to evolve our behavior in order to have a shot at a  truly sustainable future.

How long will it be before we are forced to mine landfills for what was once trash? Or, will we quickly embrace a future where products are designed to last, can be recycled, or can be reused?

This evolution in consumerism will be one of the most challenging and important tasks of 21st century humanity.


First Affirmative understands that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. We believe that in addition to the benefits of ownership, investors bear responsibility for the impact our money has in the world. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?

Posted: November 25, 2013