This behaviour has even got its own psychological name, moral self-licensing. This is the process of using one, easy, ethical decision, for example, I won’t use takeaway coffee cups, to help you maintain a high moral self-image about your ethical consumption credentials. Then this, in turn, provides you an excuse to ignore other, harder, ethical purchasing choices. This research was published in an interesting 2020 study titled, A little good is good enough: Ethical consumption, cheap excuses, and moral self-licensing, which explores how consumers justify their purchasing decisions.
This brings me back to Vogue’s definition of what makes a sustainability-conscious millennial; it begs the question, are such statements simply used to make people feel good about their spending habits, so they buy more? Buy the latest T-shirt and join the tribe saving the planet!
All this does is simply narrow sustainability to an identity and to people’s need to belong to a tribe. Opting out of the current consumption addiction requires both a secure identity and massive willpower to NOT conform. Social status, self-identity and self-worth have been more strongly linked to consumption, with the growth of advertising; this has accelerated in recent decades with the addition of social media.
We all must face the facts, that we have been groomed to consume.