Concern towards the environment relating to society and sustainable consumption has been debated over the years. In fact, the trend towards green products and sustainable consumption has become an important agenda of organisations, society and the government.
Sustainable consumption is an activity defined by population growth, economic activities, technology choices, social values and policies. In stimulating sustainable consumption, the involvement of the government in environmental issues is fundamental.
The role of government is necessary to provide supervision and legislation.
The degree of global climate change as evidenced by global warming, ozone layer depletion and a variety of other problem have boosted interest in sustainable consumption among academicians and environmentalists.
Thus, how can the role of the government in coming up with and implementing policies, coupled with greater public awareness, stimulate sustainable consumption among Malaysian citizens?
Environmental concerns involve all parties in the community. While public attitudes play a very important role in curbing environmental problems and issues, some form of action from the government is required to implement strategies that will meet the challenges of sustainable consumption.
Based on the current situation, the gap between environmental issues and knowledge among Malaysians still exists. As a result, there is a necessity to bridge the gap by enhancing public awareness of ecological biodiversity and the importance of the government’s role, its policy and regulations to develop sustainable consumption.
Malaysia faces tremendous challenges in ensuring sustainable development. Solid domestic waste is one of our major environmental problems. Solid waste relates to waste generated from products purchased by the public for household use, such as garbage, refuse, sludge and other discarded solid materials.
The majority of consumers notice how their purchasing behaviour has a direct impact on ecological problems.
Yet, the public has put the blame on the government, commercial agriculture businesses or oil companies instead of themselves.
One of the challenges is to promote aggressively the understanding and awareness towards environmental protection. Tremendous efforts have been made by the government, for example through the recycling programme.
Recycling is one of the environmentally-friendly techniques of disposing garbage, which aims to promote environmental protection for the long term.
It is worth noting that one of the obstacles to recycling in Malaysia is the lack of awareness about the importance of separating household solid waste and a lack of interest of the local community in participating and contributing to the recycling programmes.
In summary, consideration for the environment comes only from well-informed and aware citizens who are fully committed to their rights to a quality environment. A shift in the level of awareness and attitudes has to exist first in order to implement a shift in behaviour.
No doubt, the role of the government in protecting the environment is important. Various strategies have been carried out by the government.
Social advertising can be seen everywhere in an effort to educate and encourage environmental awareness among the public.
And yet, there exists little or perhaps no knowledge about environmental concern within the local communities with no remarkable improvement to the condition of the environment at present.
Enforcement needs to be more aggressive in spreading awareness and we must instil confidence in local communities at the grassroots level about the environmental problems that the country is facing. More active and leading roles are needed to encourage greater environmental responsibility among communities.
The media can play an active role in emphasising the effort and good work done by the government.
This will bring about effective changes in the approach and attitude of the public towards environmental concerns.
Lastly, education must be one of the strategies in fostering environmental and ecological awareness among the public, especially young Malaysian adults as they make up nearly 30 per cent of the population.
Use them as agents of change. They play a role in shaping the present-day lifestyle of the next generation that would drive more sustainable patterns of consumption to ensure that sustainable consumption practices work.
The writer is a lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Management, UiTM Melaka, Alor Gajah campus