Today, consumerism becomes a mainstream trend that defines the life of the modern society. The process of globalization contributes to ever growing consumerism and thoughtless consumption of products, which leads to the consistent deterioration of environmental situation and socioeconomic conditions worldwide. In fact, the price is still a determinant factor which defines customers choices but in the pursuit of a cheap product of a possibly higher quality, customers consciously or unconsciously aggravate the current environmental and socioeconomic situation.
In fact, unconsciously buying cheap products without thinking of their origin and people who create them, customers sanction a severe exploitation of people, especially in poor developing countries of the world, and deterioration of environmental situation. In such a situation, the conscious consumerism can become an alternative to current consumerist practices since customers can influence policies of companies producing goods and services through the conscious choice of products in favor of goods and services which are environmentally friendly and ensure the protection of basic rights of those employees, who create them.
First of all, it is important to stress a significant impact of consumerism on the development of modern economy and society. In fact, the modern society proves to be the consumerist society, where the consumption of goods and services has practically become the ultimate goal of the life, the purpose and sense of human life, while traditional human values have degraded dramatically. The pursuit of wealth and prosperity result from the deeply-rooted consumerist mentality of people, who do not care much about what they buy and what for and they definitely do not think over effects of their habits as consumers. What is meant here is the fact that people focus on the consumption of goods and services, which they believe to be essential for them, even though these products can be imposed on them by manufacturers. Consumers prefer buying products which meet their demands and which help them to show their social status and individuality. As a result, people are ready to pay more for products they do not really need, if they are sold under a popular brand.
At the same time, price still remains the main, determinant factor that defines the choice of the overwhelming majority of customers. In fact, people are guided by a natural desire to buy a product or service and pay as little as possible. Obviously, it is a natural desire for people to get maximum benefits with minimal costs. However, such a desire leads to disastrous results. In this respect, the development of agriculture and cultivation of plants, including flowers, perfectly reveal the disastrous effect of such unconscious consumerist approach to buying goods and services. Navaro (2008) and Stewart (2006) argue that the development of modern flower industry has a destructing impact on the environment.
Remarkably, this negative impact is particularly significant in developing countries, such as Colombia and other countries of Latin America, where flowers are exported worldwide. The main market for these products is the USA, which consumes a considerable part of flowers exported from Colombia and other Latin American countries. No wonder, it is American norms and regulations that define the development of flower industry in Latin America because flower have to meet US standards to be imported by the USA. The existing standards in the USA force Latin American producers use pesticides and other dangerous chemical elements which are dangerous for the environment as well as human health. These chemicals destroy the soil and environment at large.
In such a situation, it seems as if nothing can be changed because it is a natural market development. However, Navaro and Stewart argue that it is American consumers who can change the situation for better. At this point, both authors emphasize the importance of conscious consumerism because American consumers always have a choice, at least, they are supposed to have it, either to buy flowers, as well as products, which are not environmentally friendly, but cheap, or they can spend more but buy products which are environmentally friendly, such as flowers cultivated organically, without the use of pesticides and other chemicals. The problem is that consumers should be conscious of their choice and buying habits. As soon as they refuse to buy a potential dangerous product, suppliers and producers need to offer the product which consumers demand.
However, in such a situation, the question of the effect of conscious consumerism on socioeconomic situation arises.
For instance, if Americans prefer to buy local flowers this will lead to galloping unemployment rates in Latin American flower industry and related industries. The same trend could be traced in any other industry that implies that conscious consumerism can have a negative socioeconomic impact. In this respect, Freedman (2008) argues that such a view on a conscious consumerism is totally wrong. In stark contrast, conscious consumerism can contribute to the improvement of socioeconomic position of employees and the poor worldwide. The author draws the example of American students forcing companies, such as Nike, to supply goods manufactured in factories, where employees’ rights are protected. Hence, the author argues that consumers need to be conscious of conditions of work in developing countries and, when American consumers buy imported products, they need to make a conscious choice in favor of goods produced by companies which are socially responsible and are concerned with rights of their employees. For instance, Freedman suggests refusing from apparel goods produced in sweatshops.
This is another example of conscious consumerism since through the conscious choice of goods and service consumers buy they can force companies to conduct socially responsible policies.
In addition, conscious consumerism can contribute to the solution of serious problems which affect many countries of the world and which they cannot cope with independently from leading nations. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the problem of the spread of epidemic, such as HIV, in Africa. African countries cannot solve this problem without the assistance from the USA, the EU and other leading nations. In such a situation, conscious consumerism can contribute to the solution of such problems as the prevention of HIV in African countries. Specialists (Nixon, 2008) recommend developing conscious consumerism as a combination of consumerism and altruism. This means that people and companies should develop charitable projects, based on funding charitable projects through sharing of revenues from sales of some goods and services.
Thus, it is obvious that conscious consumerism can change consumers’ behavior and make consumers’ choices more conscious. It proves beyond a doubt that modern consumers play a very significant role in modern business since companies have to take into consideration their choices, interests and preferences to sell their goods and services successfully. However, conscious consumerism is not an absolute panacea from all problems because the consumerist society is still controlled by large companies which can shape customers preferences and, therefore, define their choices.