The concept of sustainability is still being pushed out in the future for many of us.
Why should we worry today? The “judgement” is that those eco-friendly products seem to always be more expensive due to often unexplained or unfamiliar concepts.
As long as we can afford what we know and trust, then why worry or change? The question is, will this abundance, this acceptance that it is there, finally be changing?
Today we can’t see the value in shifting to a more sustainable pathway. We are expected to pay more for that higher cost of producing locally, growing organic food, using recycled materials, and many other factors that do add up to make a significant price difference when you compare.
We are reluctant to make the shift as it is still not compelling enough to change when we have abundant options.
We are being asked to understand and equate the significant differences between a product shipped from China, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile or Peru costing less than the one locally produced often does not stack up.
How can something be transported thousands of miles, similar in quality and yet cheaper, not confirm today’s need for affordability as our dominating thinking?
The economics of abundance in global supplies undermine our resolve to make a change. What is this need to be more sustainable? Is this about to change?
When we order online, we often go into an essential bucket list of comparisons: price, availability, speed and cost of delivery and the ability to track progress are today’s purchase criteria.
Quality and money-back guarantees have been levelled out in a global trading world, or the business runs the risk of having a short life, being “trashed” all over the internet. Comparing products on the internet has become a great leveller or decider on where we buy on service, (immediate) availability and price.
A globally connected world might be breaking down.
Have you noticed how much faster it often is to order a product from China than from a neighbouring country, especially here in the EU for instance? There are more restrictions imposed due to EU standards of production in place on EU origin products than those from further afield.
Often we get caught up in protectionism to shield the local producer from those nasty neighbours.
Still, it is okay to order from a developing country, where the standards may not be as high, or the labour does not have the accepted (in our eyes) working conditions, but we decide to buy them as they are more affordable.
There seem to be global shifts as the recent pandemic showed that essential production had shifted and been far too concentrated in Asia as potentially risky. Will this change the perception of consumers?
Jobs, the environment, and securing supplies all came into a different focus in the West, where we are overly reliant on Asia as the economic powerhouse for our products.
Today the mindset is shifting but is it fast enough?
The appeal of wanting to relate to recycled products or recyclable materials is growing in recognition and seen as having growing importance to consider in purchasing decisions.
Yet this alone is not enough; living in a rapidly consuming world where our natural resources to sustain it are quickly running out needs a more compelling narrative for sustainability to be understood and take hold.
Without a significant shift in our behaviours and consumption patterns, we require complete sustainable solutions; simply, they don’t make the case to change our past and present behaviours if we only see piecemeal ones.
Is affordability changing? I would argue yes.
Affordability begins to reduce; it is more about what we are willing or have already given up and what that means. Hence we begin to rethink our values, and that leads to a different sustainability position.
Others influence us, and it is still so often by those closest to us. Current affairs have become higher in our consciousness.
Natural disasters, social unrest, and the growing wealth gap are becoming essential as we are not just seeing these on TV or reading about them; they are increasingly all around us. actually knocking on our door.
There is a shift in empathy where identification is now on the up.
Values are changing; we are becoming more extreme in our opinions and our perceptions. We support politicians, policies, and companies that align with our values.
We have, it seems, stronger opinions coming out of the changes caused by COVID-19 restrictions.
Privilege has become “our right”, and somewhere in this shift, sustainability is finding a growing fertile ground in awareness and what we want to change.
Decisions are more personal, not collective.
We will take a pay cut to live the life we know feels a better one than before the COVID-19 hit us all in its impact.
This decision has shifted many to rethink where to live, the type of environment they want, and what they are prepared to “put up with” in driving or commuting, working environments, and performance pressures.
The door is opening for sustainability.
Having clarity of sustainable strategies and purpose will put businesses in a better position to earn long-term consumer loyalty and trust.
Communicating a new set of actions and commitments designed to fight climate change, protect and regenerate nature, and preserve resources for future generations fits with what and how we want to identify with becomes a vital part of this communication strategy.
Giving consumers far better, more informed choices by offering precise and transparent information about the sustainability and social responsibility initiatives being undertaken makes us all aware. Being informed is being empowered.
Businesses and governments are beginning to recognise the time is now to alter high levels of current scepticism, actively reducing bogus claims and avoiding getting caught in “greenwashing.”
Society, communities, and individuals are picking up and questioning corporate or governance responsibility, driving a very different set of discussions around contribution and values.
We do seem to be making far more pivotal choices on what is essential in our lives. Sustainable living choices are rising
Change is being forced upon us through crisis; the growing understanding of our past actions, alongside our present ones, is giving us a growing awareness that we do need to change.
Our future actions need to be based on placing Sustainability central in our decisions. Reality is dawning that the (only) way forward as supply can’t keep up with demand, we all must rethink the actual and true cost of affordability.
Abundance might get replaced by scarcity, and we all recognise affordability goes quickly out of the window in those cases.
Hence, we need to jump onto this sustainability train fast if we do want to have still some level of “freedom of choice.”
I wrote this additional post looking more at how innovation can change our thinking on “Applying innovation thinking to affordability versus sustainability”
Choosing sustainability then innovation has that real chance of being radical, distinctive and providing breakthroughs that can revolutionise and change our world. It can allow us to begin the pathway back to getting our planet and its limited resources into some semblance of balance.
Anxiety is on the rise, and change is (certainly) coming
It’s a current reality, climate anxiety is on the rise, and as consumers become more concerned with environmental sustainability.
We all need to reorder our commitments to adjusting to forgetting simply “affordability” into one of ensuring “affordable sustainability.”