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Universiti Malaysia Kelantan

Socially Responsible Marketing: Sustaining Handicrafts Through Socially Responsible Gift Giving

By supporting the handmade crafts by the local artisans, we get to reduce the pollution which poses danger to the current and future generations; we play an active role in sustaining the soon to be extinct weaving skills as well as the roots which define us.

Author, Wee Yu Ghee

How much do corporations spend annually on gifts giving? Most common giveaways at company events including seminars, workshops, conferences and exhibitions are none other than the nonwoven bags. While some suppliers claim that these goodie bags are made from recycled materials, how many of us understand and are assured of the materials used to produce that self-acclaimed eco-bags? Visit your storeroom and do a quick cleanup at your office, how many non-woven bags have you collected? Are you making good use of these business gifts? If the answers to the multiple questions above are no, are we paying enough responsibility in protecting the environment? Often, these bags are donated or thrown away, in an irresponsible manner. 

Many efforts have been taken by the scientists and environmentalists in raising public awareness over plastics ban. Nonetheless, many do not realize that these business gifts given in the form of woven or nonwoven bags can be environmentally harmful. According to the experts, non-woven bags made by the fibre are no longer environmental friendly; they are relatively difficult to degrade, just like plastic bags at a normal temperature. The raw materials used to make the nonwoven bags are polypropylene or terephthalate glycol ester, and the raw materials of plastic bags are polyethene. Both polypropylene and polyethene are not degraded for less than 50 years. When the temperature is high, polypropylene will release harmful substances. Further, the additional decorations sewn onto the nonwoven bags such as buttons, beads, sequins and some others are unrecyclable. Hence, non-woven bags could be more damaging than plastic bags which are often easily crushed. Since non-woven bags could be a great source of pollution, corporations should consider other alternatives which are environmentally friendly and sustaining.

Under corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, many corporations organize diverse programs benefiting the specific or general community in the society, depending on the company’s end goals. Besides the CSR programs, it is essential for corporations to invest in socially responsible marketing, also known as green marketing or ethical corporate marketing. Corporations which adopt socially responsible marketing acknowledge the social and environmental impacts brought about by their products and services. Replacing the nonwoven bags with local handicraft bags which are usually handmade and woven by the marginalized community including the single mother, unemployed and the physically challenged group, often help to uplift their life, while sustaining the heritage and culture lie within.

For example, AirAsia is working closely with United Voice (UV), a self-advocacy society for persons with learning disabilities. AirAsia invites passengers to participate in the charitable movement by purchasing handmade crafts produced by the members of UV. Among handmade products delicately offered by UV include greeting cards, bookmarks, key chains, fridge magnets, coasters and pencil kiosks, all made available at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).  The entire proceeds from the sales will go to support the employment of persons with learning disabilities. Some may be reluctant to invest in these crafts due to the exorbitant price. Nonetheless, if you have been exposed to craft-making class and have tried weaving it, you would realize the price is all worthy of the pain, sweat and skills contributed by the marginalized groups.  And wait a minute, how much price then are you paying for the non-woven bags which in return, cause environmental pollution?  You end up paying more and putting more dangers to the health and wellbeing of your children and future generations!

By supporting the handmade crafts by the local artisans, we get to reduce the pollution which poses danger to the current and future generations; we play an active role in sustaining the soon to be extinct weaving skills as well as the roots which define us. Most importantly, we deviate from the practice of making the rich richer, the poor poorer through socially responsible gift giving, a noble act which empowers the marginalized community and saves the environment.

Dr Wee Yu Ghee is an Associate Professor at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan. Follow Dr Wee on ResearchGate

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Universiti Malaysia Kelantan

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) is the 19th public university established in Malaysia back in 2006 with the main focus on entrepreneurship. Currently, UMK is enjoying a great growth rate on its undergraduate and postgraduate students enrollment balancing from 8 faculties and 4 centres of research excellence. UMK aspires to be the No. 1 Entrepreneurial University in Malaysia by 2023, in ASEAN by 2026 and in Asia by 2030. Visit our website for more information on our programmes.

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