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Sustainable Consumption: Proliferating a Discussion

"Avoid confusion in a consumers mind"

A recent post by Aron Cramer, President and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) prompts the consumer to look inwards when contemplating what went wrong with the BP oil spill and the crisis on Wall Street.  These recent crises have a common thread, he points out, insatiable consumer demand.

Who doesn’t want the latest gadget at a lower price with cheaper gas to go out and get it?  But has our outrageous consumer demands driven businesses to cut corners, lower standards and deliver comprising products?  Cramer’s recent post entitled Preventing the Next Crisis Through Sustainable Consumption sheds light on the consumer role in sustainability and reminded me yet again how powerful the will of the consumer can be.

In addition to giving examples of companies innovating in the area of sustainability like Levi Strauss and Best Buy, Cramer also points out some hard facts every business and consumer must face:  we are using 40% more resources today than the planet can supply and that this statistic will rise to 100% by the middle of the next decade, according to The Global Footprint Network.

So where does that leave us, the consumer?  In a very powerful position.  From supporting those companies dedicated to sustainability to limiting our own consumption of goods, we can be active partners in a sustainable economy.  I agree with Cramer who said it best,

“The post-recession, post-oil-spill economy should embrace a vision of business—and consumption—that creates value without causing blowouts either on oil rigs or in financial systems. If we do that, we will be one step closer to an economy that can deliver prosperity for a planet with seven billion people.”

Are you a sustainable business, a sustainable consumer or both???  I would love to hear your ideas on developing a sustainable economy.

Image Credit:  CHRISTOPHER DOMBRES via flickr under CC license.

Written by Emily DeMasi

Emily McKinin DeMasi is a 2011 MBA/ MA Public Policy candidate and Peace Corps Fellow at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her thesis work concerns Corporate Social Responsibility in the United States. She also works as a Research Fellow at Bridgeway Capital, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in downtown Pittsburgh. Emily has worked as an Associate in a Private Equity Placement Firm in NY and as a Water and Sanitation Volunteer in Ivory Coast, West Africa. She hopes to combine her business background with her passion for development and inspire others in the fields of Sustainability and CSR.

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  1. One way to reduce our use of natural resources is to reduce the number of people that we are creating. Not having children is the single most impactful thing that one can do to save the planet. Certainly population reduction is one tool in an arsenal of tools that we have, but currently, many governments have strong financial incentives in place which reward breeding, as opposed to having fewer kids.

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