Much has been said about the authorities’ responsibility in steering Malaysia to fulfil the United Nations’ (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to protect the planet and uplift society.
Individual citizens must also play a critical role in helping the country achieve the goals, especially the twelfth SDG – on responsible consumption and production.
School of Business & Administration (SBA) Dean Prakash V Arumugam said that to achieve sustainable development, the ideals of “people, planet and profit” must complement each other. Businesses should not only focus on profits, but also care for employees, society and the planet.
He was speaking at an online talk on “Responsible Consumption: Sustainable Development Goals & You” on 14 November 2021, organised by SBA and attended by over 180 people. In particular, he cited five ways to become a responsible consumer.
“First, buy only green products,” he said, describing these as commodities with low impact on the environment. These include organic products with low carbon footprint that do not contribute to pollution or depletion of natural resources. “Buy from businesses that respect the environment,” he stressed.
Secondly, patronise companies that respect social laws and consider the impact of their products on societies. “Buy products that are made without forced child labour, with good working conditions that respect working hours and fair wages, and are manufactured in compliance with ethical standards, including corruption.”
Third is consuming “healthier” products based on nutritional composition and hygiene standards, with no harmful chemical content. Next is consumption of products with a positive impact on the economy. These include locally made products or those manufactured by plants that create more jobs.
Fifth, consume products that are manufactured while respecting certain ethical or moral principles, like respect for animal welfare, fairness and individual freedoms.
Prakash said responsible buying and consumption requires consumers to gather information – by reading the CSR activities of companies, corporate websites, and product labels – to ensure that the manufacturers have a responsible production process.
He also urged consumers to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, like harvesting rainwater for irrigation or floor washing, minimising waste generation at home, walking or bicycling instead of driving to work, reusing, buying energy-saving electronic goods, and using solar water heaters.
He however cautioned against greenwashing, an over-emphasis on buying green products, as they too generate waste, stating that the reusable water bottle market is expected to reach US$10.4 billion by 2025.
He informed that WOU offers an elective course on ‘Business for Sustainable Development’ under the Commonwealth Executive MBA (CeMBA) programme, designed for those seeking management-level positions.