Changing Consumer Mindsets and Behavior for Responsible Consumption

06 Mar 2024
Changing Consumer Mindsets and Behavior for Responsible Consumption
by Harry Jay M. Cavite Climate change and environmental protection are priority topics for business and policy leaders, yet we often overlook one crucial aspect – the food we eat. Agriculture plays an important role in providing us with sustenance, but the way we produce and consume food today has far-reaching consequences – from air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, land degradation and greenhouse gas emissions from crops and livestock to the health and productivity of our population. Our food choices now can either worsen or mitigate these challenges. To mitigate these challenges, we need to adopt sustainable practices. This includes businesses and policymakers promoting not only sustainable agriculture but also responsible consumption. To achieve behavior change; we need to change our mindset when it comes to food. Individually, we can make a difference, and this has always been the motivation for my focus on agriculture. Growing up in a small province in the Philippines named “Leyte”, I’ve always been exposed to the realities of food production, as we relied on it for our daily sustenance. This sparked my interest in agribusiness management and agricultural research, where I’ve come to realize the significant impact of food production and consumption on the environment. As an academic researcher, my ultimate goal is to translate my research findings into management actions and interventions to promote more sustainable agriculture and enhance food security for the benefit of small-scale farmers and rural communities. My agricultural research produced recommendations for upgrading strategies to make the banana value chain in my home province more competitive and profitable, and promising results from experiments to encourage the use of natural bio-inoculants and reduce farmers’ dependence on chemical fertilizers in rice production, based on my exploration of the use of bacteria to enhance plant growth, led to ongoing research at the Philippine Rice Research Institute. Responsible consumer behavior, specifically at the intersection of agricultural marketing and climate change has enormous impact potential on the farmers’ community as well as on the environment. The health of individuals and the health of the environment are interconnected. Doing what’s right for individual health is also good for the environment. However, agricultural marketing faces challenges in the Philippines, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, especially due to farmers’ limited access to market information, inadequate infrastructure, and difficulties reaching distant markets. As rice production constitutes a significant contributor to climate change due to among others, methane emissions from rice paddies and nitrous emissions from fertilizer use, my research focuses on consumer adoption of organic agricultural produce, in particular rice. Organic production reduces chemical inputs, promotes biodiversity and helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil, and is a powerful solution to environmental concerns such as air pollution, water contamination, and land degradation. Better understanding consumers’ purchase intention for organic food will allow us to encourage organic consumption, and create a demand that motivates farmers to continue growing organic foods, which in turn benefits the environment and our health. My study into organic rice consumers’ intentions produced actionable insights for businesses, for policymakers, and individuals. For businesses to encourage responsible consumption, health consciousness is a key predictor. Businesses can launch aggressive promotional campaigns that highlight the perceived value of organic rice on consumers’ health and lifestyle. Also, with consumers becoming more tech-savvy and environmentally conscious, providing product traceability information can boost their intention to purchase, and this creates a sense of responsibility in consumption. There is also a need to make purchasing organic food more accessible. Businesses can establish more physical organic shops or online stores, such as the Organic Story and Lemon Farm stores in Thailand. While this may come with a higher price tag, my study found that negative cost perceptions on organic food products are not a barrier, indicating that consumers justify the higher expense on organic food through its perceived quality and long-term benefits. Moreover, subjective norms—such as the established norm of purchasing organic foods in Thailand—can be reinforced through influencer marketing. We now live in the digital era where influencers exert significant influence. This approach has the potential to further strengthen organic food consumption as a societal norm which will drive more responsible consumption practices. For policymakers, there are several actionable insights to promote responsible consumption. Besides increasing consumer awareness of organic food through educational materials, public campaigns, and sustainability events to emphasize the health benefits of organic products, implementation of standardized food labels with traceability features can be instrumental. These labels would give consumers more transparency regarding their food’s origin and production methods. This empowers them to make more informed and responsible choices. With these strategies, policymakers can encourage a shift towards more sustainable and responsible consumption practices that benefits both consumers and the environment. Individually, we can contribute to a more sustainable agri-food system by being more mindful of our food choices. We can opt for locally sourced and organic produce whenever possible, as well as reduce our consumption of meat and dairy products, which have a higher environmental footprint. We can also minimize food waste by planning our meals, using leftovers creatively, and composting organic waste, which can be used for organic production. Educating ourselves about the environmental and health impacts of our food choices is also crucial. It pays to stay informed and make better decisions that align with our values. We can read through labels, research the origins of our food, and support brands and companies that prioritize sustainability and transparency. We can also engage with our local communities and support local farmers’ markets. In a world where our daily actions hold the power to shape the future, let us not underestimate the impact of our food choices. Each meal presents an opportunity to nurture both our bodies and the planet. Perhaps we can view each meal as a small step toward a healthier planet. Our food choices today sow the seeds for a better and more sustainable future for us all.
About the Author Harry Jay M. Cavite is a marketing core faculty member at Sasin School of Management. Originally from the Philippines, he is an agribusiness researcher continuously working to understand consumer behavior to encourage more responsible consumption in today’s ever-changing marketing landscape. He has published academic articles focused on consumer purchase intention, technology adoption, and sustainable crop production.

Sasin Collaborative Thought Leadership: Transforming Our Critical Systems Complex multi-actor systems have developed around satisfying critical human needs, such as nutrition, mobility, energy, or housing. These systems, as well as enabling sub-systems such as education, finance, etcetera, represent most of our economic activity, but there is also enormous inefficiency embedded in the complexity and dynamics through which these systems have evolved, making them responsible for most of humanity’s environmental and social impact. Current efforts to reduce our negative impact can hardly be considered successful, because too much focus is still on marginal improvement of our traditional models. Only 18% of the 169 targets set for the 2030 SDGs are on track to be reached (most targets show virtually no progress and 15% are in fact reversing). This is why increasingly, scholars and practitioners are trying to understand the nature of systemic change, the radical reinvention of our critical systems. Cambridge University Press recently published ‘Transforming our Critical SystemsHow Can We Achieve the Systemic Change the World Needs’ by Sasin professor GJ van der Zanden and researcher Rozanne Henzen. Sasin has invited thought leaders and practitioners from around the world to share their visions and insights on the reinvention of the systems that they are part of. These pieces provide a rich variety of perspectives from business, policy makers, civil society, academia and think tanks, as well as enablers such as finance, technology and start-ups. In systems change, incorporating perspectives from multiple stakeholders is essential to come to a shared understanding of the system dynamics and challenges, develop a shared vision of the future and explore possible interventions and collaborations.
Further readings, author’s academic publications:
  1. Community enterprise consumers’ intention to purchase organic rice in Thailand: The moderating role of product traceability knowledge. British Food Journal, 124(4)
  2. Growth and yield response of upland rice to application of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria. Journal of Plant Growth Regulation, 40(2): 494–508.
  3. Farmers’ perception of consumer information and adoption intention towards organic rice farming: Evidence from community enterprise in rural Thailand. Outlook on Agriculture, 52(1): 78-88
  4. Others at:
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