To consume means to satisfy needs and desires. The activity of consumption involves various areas of daily life and is affected by socialization, economy, communication, and personality. There are two types of products to be consumed. First, basic or staple products – products that people cannot or do not want to eliminate from their budget by any means, such as food, beverages, household goods, feminine hygiene products. Second, consumer discretionary and consumer cyclical consumption are those that produce goods and services that are not essential, such as clothing, automobiles, entertainment, and leisure.
The consumption of non-essential goods and services is often considered as "unnecessary". This categorization may seem to only concern people with higher incomes, but mass consumption today is no longer only focused on higher socioeconomic groups.
Consumption has three social functions: social class differentiator, symbolic identifier (signs and meanings of products), and means of social interaction. The main characteristics of post-industrial societies in the 21st century are as follows (Bravo, 2021, p. 53-60):
- Experiences and sensations are more important than the products themselves
- New narcissism: people seek to increase emotions, sensations and experiences in the marketplace
- Achieving more relevance and distinction through symbolic associations of product and brands
- Relevant media as creators of desires and needs
- Consumption based on pleasure and the power of style
- Shopping malls that favor hyper-consumption
- Consumption without spatial-temporal barriers thanks to technology
Oxford dictionary (2020) defines consumerism as the buying and using of goods and services; the belief that it is good for a society or an individual person to buy and use a large quantity of goods and services.
Colin Campbell (2018) explains that consumerism is established when consuming becomes particularly important or central in the lives of individuals and, on many occasions, is a central purpose of existence. Therefore, people find themselves performing constant consumption actions, which generate new products, styles, and trends. This is what Bauman (2007) calls the "consumer revolution". Lipovetsky (2007) explains it as the "hyperconsumption society", where society revolves around the great protagonist: the consumer. Companies focus on improving the actions of consumption, generating a flexible, independent, mobile consumer looking for experiences and immediate things, without waiting times (Bravo, 2021). The requirement of this hyper-consumption society is to market all experiences anywhere and at any time.
We are in an era of a consumer-world in which cultural discrepancies are erased and consumerism reorganizes behaviors, even those that do not depend on commercial exchange. For Lipovetsky (2007), contemporary society communicates, expresses, and speaks through consumption. The globalization of consumption produces a homogenized world consumerism. More and more consumers around the world eat the same food, listen to the same music, wear the same fashion, watch the same television programs and movies, drive the same cars, dine in the same restaurants, and stay in the same hotels (Bravo, 2021).
Consumerism has been enhanced by various communication, marketing and advertising techniques. Most of the advertising plans aim to provoke in the consumer new consumption needs that imply the achievement of happiness due to the benefits produced by the acquisition of the products. People are often influenced to purchase a myriad of products that they mostly don't need for their mental or physical well-being.
As opposed to consumerism, the concept of Sustainable Consumption was developed. Sustainable consumption is a compromise between environmental, social, and economic aims; the acquisition and utilization of products contemplates global welfare for the present and future generations. The main aim of sustainable consumption is to reach the harmony between the satisfaction of consumer needs and preservation of the environment (Piligrimienė et al., 2020, p. 4)
In 1994 Oslo Symposium on Sustainable Consumption, defines sustainable consumption as “the use of goods and services that respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life, while minimizing the use of natural resources, toxic materials and emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle, so as not to jeopardies the needs of future generations”.
Rapid population growth together with improving living standards is causing bigger and more rapid consumption (…). Unsustainable consumption patterns are negatively affecting our surroundings. In order to promote sustainable consumption, it is important to engage consumers in active and mutual dialogue. The factors influencing consumer engagement in sustainable consumption can be divided into two groups, internal and external, each comprising three determinants: environmental attitude, perceived responsibility, and perceived behavioral efficiency. In addition to the listed determinants, there are also certain conditions for sustainable consumption, social environment, and promotion of sustainable consumption. All of the aforementioned points were identified as having direct positive impact on consumer engagement in sustainable consumption (…). The application of the engagement construct in the context of sustainable consumption would allow a deeper understanding of actual consumer behavior in relation to different contexts of sustainable consumption (Piligrimienė et al., 2020, p. 1).