Sustainable Market Economy (SME): The “Homo Integralis or Universalis” as an Agent of Change

Cesar Reyna Ugarriza
34 min readMay 10, 2024

By César Reyna Ugarriza, consultant in Economic, Political, and Social Issues. Email: cesarreyna78@gmail.com

This work proposes the introduction of the “homo integralis or universalis” as an agent of change within the Sustainable Market Economy (SME), an economic model that seeks to reconcile economic growth with environmental protection and social welfare. It should be clarified that the SME is not a proposal for an economic model to be implemented by humanity, but rather represents a reality or objective phenomenon of change that has been manifesting itself in various spheres and areas of reality in a progressive manner.

An example of this is the energy transition that the planet is undergoing and that involves dozens of governments, millions of companies, and hundreds of millions of consumers to control and reduce CO2 emissions and other toxic gases. Another case is the voluntary incorporation of specific frameworks or rules such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Likewise, the initiative of Conscious Capitalism, which promotes greater involvement of private companies in global issues and problems, represents another example of the model change that is taking place.

The same happens with the use of traditional or recent approaches such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) itself or the creation of shared value to increase and improve the contribution of the private sector in society. It is also the implementation of the circular economy approach in various industries to combat pollution and the adoption of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) parameters by corporations around the world due to the interference of new regulations, the financial benefit that comes with the incorporation of business sustainability and the demand and pressure from different stakeholders on firms or companies.

Thus, the Sustainable Market Economy (SME) that is described is a mere gradual constatation of the multiple effects that have been occurring on multiple dimensions of reality (economic, cultural, social, environmental, political and institutional) thanks to the change mainly promoted by States, multilateral organizations, civil society and the companies or corporations themselves through their active participation and various agreements reached in world-class political events of great relevance such as climate conferences (COP), the Davos economic forum, debates in the various bodies and commissions of the United Nations, sessions of the European Parliament, among other large spaces for multi-stakeholder discussion and deliberation.

Now, after reviewing these milestones or antecedents, it is convenient to present the types of agents that have been conceived or characterized as protagonists of economic transactions, operations and decisions of all kinds throughout just over two centuries of economic and universal history, namely: a) homo economicus, b) homo psychologicus, c) homo consumus, d) homo responsabilis, e) homo sustinens, f) homo sustentabilis and finally, the g) homo integralis or universalis as a proposal.

Keywords: homo integralis, homo universalis, homo economicus, homo sustinens, homo consumus, homo consumens, homo responsabilis, homo psicologicus, homo psychologicus homo sustentabilis, Sustainable Market Economy (SME), energy transition, guiding principles United Nations (UN), conscious capitalism, free market economy, consumerism, corporate social responsibility (CSR), shared value, circular economy, ESG criteria, ASG criteria, environment, social, governance, economic paradigm, social change, social change agent, sustainability, social responsibility, private sector, private companies, environmental impacts, social impacts, externalities, World Economic Forum (WEF), IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), CAF, ECLAC, European Union, civil society, COP, Davos, climate change, CO2, emissions, net zero, carbon, sustainable development, economic growth, market, market economy, OECD

a) Homo economicus

The “homo economicus” is a concept that originates in neoclassical economic theory and represents a simplified representation of human behavior in the economic sphere. According to this conception, individuals are perceived as rational beings who act selfishly and seek to maximize their utility or personal benefit, making decisions based on a cost-benefit calculation.

This individual acted exclusively in his own interest in order to maximize the enjoyment or pleasure of each choice with the lowest possible cost. During the search for the satisfaction of his needs, he prioritized his personal interest. It was assumed that he had perfect information at the time of making any decision. As a criticism, it was attributed to being too individualistic, selfish and not very empathetic, that is, lacking solidarity. The conception of this subject occurred in the context of a market that operates perfectly due to the absence of monopolies and externalities, where prices accurately reflected the preferences of producers and consumers. It was also postulated that when individuals seek to maximize their own well-being, they were also inducing the maximization of the well-being of society, a rather debatable statement, of course.

For the economy, an individual with such characteristics was very predictable in terms of his behavior, which provided some stability to the system due to the advance knowledge of his preferences or consumption expectations, allowing producers to know in advance what and how much to produce at any given time. This balance naturally starts from the illusion that each agent has access to perfect information, that is, timely and complete when they must make an economic decision. Another questionable element about these assumptions is the permanent rationality of the agent, since their emotions would not interfere with their judgments and assessments of reality, which is easily refutable.

The description of humans as entirely rational beings who calculate the costs and benefits of their actions is questionable because the concept of homo economicus does not encompass all aspects of human behavior. For example, the psychological inclinations or biases present in the human personality that can prevent homo economicus from fully satisfying their needs. The assertions that homo economicus acts out of his own personal interest, ponders the alternatives with total rationality and has perfect information about reality fade in the face of the evidence or findings provided by other fields or disciplines such as psychology and sociology.

Example in individual decision-making

A common example of “homo economicus” behavior is found in purchasing decisions. Suppose an individual is considering buying a car. According to homo economicus theory, this individual will evaluate different options based on factors such as price, quality, durability, and the prestige associated with the brand. When making their decision, the individual will choose the car that maximizes their personal utility, that is, the one that offers the best value for money and better satisfies their individual needs and preferences.

Perfect competition model

In the context of microeconomic theory, “homo economicus” is also associated with the model of perfect competition. In this model, individuals are assumed to act as utility maximizers and firms as profit maximizers. Under conditions of perfect competition, prices and quantities produced are expected to adjust automatically to reach a market equilibrium, where supply and demand are equal.

Criticisms of the concept of homo economicus

Although the concept of “homo economicus” has been fundamental to the development of economic theory, it has also been the subject of criticism and debate. It is argued that this simplified representation of human behavior does not adequately capture the complexity and diversity of human motivations. In addition, it has been shown that people do not always act in a fully rational or selfish way, and those other factors, such as social norms, emotions, and reciprocity, also influence their economic decisions.

Decisions based on social norms

One example that challenges the assumption of homo economicus is the phenomenon of cooperation and altruism in economic situations. For example, in an ultimatum game experiment, a participant can decide to share a portion of their reward with another participant, even if it means obtaining a lower profit for themselves. This altruistic behavior contradicts the idea that people always seek to maximize their personal utility and suggests that other motives, such as reciprocity or concern for fairness, can also influence economic decisions.

Incorporation of alternative approaches

In response to the criticisms of the concept of homo economicus, alternative approaches have been developed that take into account a wider range of human motivations. For example, the behavioral economics approach incorporates findings from psychology and sociology to better understand how people make decisions in real economic situations. This approach recognizes that individuals may be subject to cognitive biases, social influences, and emotions that affect their economic choices, and seeks to integrate these factors into economic models.

b) Homo Psychologicus

In contrast to the concept of “homo economicus”, the concept of “homo psychologicus” is proposed. This term indicates that the emotional state lays the foundation for individual decisions, that is, that various factors of personality and character influence the results and scenarios chosen by individuals. These states or conditions also determine the type, degree, and scope of relationships with other agents, whether the State, institutions, family, coworkers, friendships, etc. The concept of homo psychologicus is used to describe human behavior that is not based on purely or exclusively economic assumptions.

A pertinent comment so far regarding these categories is that they represent two distinct cognitive theoretical models that affect human behavior and decisions. Both help to model or determine the decisions that are made individually, but in many circumstances people do not solve them individually, but also have to do so collectively. What is meant is that in many cases the subjectivity and the individual’s own interests give way to the pressures and demands of the group to which they belong. This means that the same culture and society in which one is born induce one to follow a certain path, which may be contrary to one’s internal desires. This demonstrates that external or external factors to the subject sometimes impose themselves on the individual’s own will. In this sense, free will or autonomy of personal will is reduced or annulled by adhering to socially and culturally acceptable patterns of behavior. Then, social and moral institutions, as well as the role of States, religions, political parties, ideologies, media, and social networks exert a significant weight on the choices made by most individuals, even in matters of consumption or of an economic nature in general.

A first conclusion is that economic decisions and others of different origin depend intrinsically on a combination of internal factors (rationality and emotionality) as well as external factors (social rules, official norms, religious precepts, cultural values, etc.). In addition, if we add to this that, the information received by the agents is not perfect or complete, and many times not fully understandable or timely; the economic agents add another great problem or difficulty to the individual or group decision-making. The latter will be addressed in more depth and detail later.

Psychological foundations of human behavior

Human behavior is influenced by a range of psychological factors, including motivation, cognition, emotions, and perception. These underlying mental processes affect how people make decisions and respond to their environment. For example, past experiences, cognitive biases, and emotions can influence a person’s purchasing preferences and their willingness to adopt sustainable behaviors.

Influence of psychology on consumption and sustainability

Psychology plays an important role in the field of marketing and advertising, where it is used to understand and manipulate consumer behavior. Psychological techniques, such as the use of colors, images, sounds, and emotional narratives, are employed to influence people’s purchasing decisions and promote the consumption of certain products and services. In addition, the understanding of human behavioral psychology is also applied in the design of interventions to promote the adoption of sustainable behaviors, such as recycling, reducing energy consumption, and sustainable transportation.

Psychological resilience and behavior change

Psychology can also help to promote resilience and facilitate behavior change towards more sustainable practices. By understanding how people’s mental and emotional processes work, it is possible to design effective interventions that encourage the adoption of environmentally friendly behaviors. For example, strategies based on behavior change theory, such as goal setting, positive reinforcement, and social modeling, can help people overcome psychological barriers and adopt more sustainable habits in their daily lives.

c) Homo Consumus or Homo Consumens

The term “homo consumus” is used to refer to the human being from the perspective of consumerism, that is, as an individual immersed in a society in which consumption plays a main role in daily life and the economy of any country. This conceptual category generally presents the human being from the perspective of excessive consumption and the culture of consumerism, in which the act of consuming itself becomes a central element in people’s lives and identity, with both positive and negative implications for various spheres of society.

Homo consums (from the Latin “consumer man”) is used to describe a type of person who exclusively prioritizes the acquisition and use of certain goods and services, often in excess, to define themselves and achieve “happiness”.

Origin and evolution of consumerism

The concept originates at the intersection of the rise of industrial capitalism and the expansion of consumer society in the 20th century. This phenomenon has evolved over time, from being a marginal feature to a dominant force in contemporary culture. In the current context, consumerism has become a fundamental aspect of human identity and behavior, influencing the way people interact with their environment and perceive themselves.

The German philosopher, social psychologist, and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in his 1955 book “The Sane Society” popularized the meaning of the term. In this work, he argued that the rise of consumerism in modern societies led to a sense of alienation and emptiness. That is, people consumed to fill a void in their lives, but not because they really needed or enjoyed the products. This reveals that individuals focus more on status and image creation. Consumption then becomes a way to project an initially desired image and social status. Brands and labels, according to Fromm, have more value than the acquired product itself.

This conceptualization presents some relevant characteristics that should be highlighted:

§ First, the exclusive or private orientation towards consumption, since the “homo consumus” have a strong inclination towards consumption, whether of material goods, services, experiences, or information. The act of consuming is central to their way of life and the definition of their identity. Here it is worth considering the undeniable influence of the mass media and the role of marketing and advertising agencies in promoting this lifestyle.

§ Second, its existence highlights the strong presence of a consumer culture, since these subjects develop individually and collectively within a culture in which consumption is incessantly promoted and valued to achieve high personal satisfaction, acquire greater social status and obtain, ultimately, happiness. The conspicuous acquisition of goods and services is perceived as a means to achieve personal fulfillment.

§ Third, it leads to compulsive consumption. This implies that often, people categorized as “homo consumus” may fall into indefectible consumption patterns, since the acquisition of goods becomes a pressing emotional need rather than a real need. This can generate problems such as indebtedness, excessive consumption, and chronic dissatisfaction. Impulse buying and materialism prioritize immediate gratification over long-term individual and family economic planning. Material possessions only offer a fleeting sense of happiness to this type of economic agent.

§ Fourth, identity is promoted through consumption. What is raised for the “homo consumus” is that the products they own and acquire undoubtedly play an important role in the definition and formation of their personal and social identity. The choice of certain brands and products, and the adoption of lifestyles, becomes a way of expressing who they are and what they really value. In this case, identity is defined by material possessions and the act of consuming itself. Therefore, self-esteem is closely linked to what they own and show. This style reveals the absence of critical thinking. It is considered that marketing and advertising greatly influence the decisions of the “homo consumus”.

§ Fifth, excessive consumption generates an undeniable environmental and social impact. With this, it is intended to maintain that consumerism understood in these terms can produce a significant negative impact on the environment and society in general. This behavior can exacerbate problems such as the overexploitation of natural resources, the generation of waste (externalities), and social inequality. There is an evident disregard and thoughtlessness for the environmental and social impact generated because of excessive and unnecessary consumption. It is possible that they do not consider the true value or origin of what they buy.

The importance of delving into this category is because it provides relevant information about the relationship of consumption with the individual in a social and digital environment saturated with marketing messages and readily available goods. This should lead to reflection on one’s own consumption patterns and whether genuine needs or social pressures drive them.

While this concept may seem overly simplistic and does not capture the full spectrum of consumer behavior, it is crucial for understanding certain behaviors and trends in the market and the economy. Likewise, it should not be considered that consumers are victims of a system that induces them to consume unnecessarily and incessantly because of manipulation campaigns on social networks and the media. After all, there is responsibility in each individual. The individual choice is made at the expense of ignoring perfectly known impacts. However, the interference of the media and social environment that promotes excessive consumption from an early age cannot be ignored.

This is evident in the constant bombardment of unsolicited advertising while operating any device with internet access. The intrusion into one’s own personal space and the private information held by digital marketing and mass consumption companies exposes hundreds of millions of people to increasingly personalized goods and services, based on the illegitimate obtaining of personal data from which the consumer’s preferences are perfectly known. This represents an unacceptable invasion or violation in many ways and in a certain way grounds the existence of manipulation campaigns.

Impact of consumerism on the environment and society

Consumerism has profound implications for both the environment and society. On the one hand, excessive consumption of natural resources, waste generation, and mass production of goods have a devastating impact on global ecosystems, contributing to biodiversity loss, increased pollution, and climate change. On the other hand, consumerism also influences social inequality, indebtedness, and personal dissatisfaction, creating an unsustainable consumption cycle that negatively affects people’s quality of life and social equity.

Consumer culture and identity construction[1]

Consumer culture plays a crucial role in the construction of personal and social identity. Through advertising, brands, and the media, an idealized image of happiness and success is promoted that is achieved through the consumption of products and services. People tend to associate their personal worth with their ability to acquire material goods, which can lead to excessive consumption and a constant search for material gratification. This phenomenon can have negative effects on people’s self-esteem and mental health, perpetuating a cycle of dissatisfaction and the search for external validation through consumption.

d) Homo Responsabilis

i. Origin and Definition of the Term

“Homo responsabilis” is a Latin phrase that translates to “responsible human being”. This expression summarizes the notion that humanity has a profound responsibility towards itself, the natural world, and future generations. It goes beyond mere individual responsibility and emphasizes humanity’s collective responsibility to act in a way that ensures the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, both present and future, which fits perfectly with the concept of sustainability.

The term emerged in the 20th century, gaining prominence in philosophical and ethical discourses amidst growing concerns about environmental degradation, social inequalities, and the challenges of global development. While the concept can be traced back to earlier philosophical traditions, it gained particular attention in the second half of the 20th century.

The concept has a deep meaning in the field of ethics and individual and social responsibility. Its origin is not linked to a specific source, such as an author or a work, but rather arises from the need to describe a type of human being who is characterized by their responsibility in all their actions and decisions. In this sense, it represents individuals who recognize their capacity to influence the course of their lives and the world around them, and who assume the responsibility to do so in an ethical and committed manner to the well-being of all. Therefore, it can be understood as an expression that highlights the capacity and willingness of individuals to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and decisions, both at the personal and collective level.

ii. Main Contributors to the Notion of Homo Responsabilis

The idea of “homo responsabilis” represents a broader call for humanity to adopt a more responsible approach to our planet, our societies, and our own well-being, which was built on the contributions of several thinkers whose contributions are reviewed below.

Notable Contributors:

§ Hans Jonas (1903–1993), a German philosopher and ethicist, is considered a pioneer in the concept of “the responsibility of the future”. His work, particularly his 1979 book “The Imperative of Responsibility”, emphasized the ethical obligations we have to future generations. Jonas particularly laid the foundation for the concept of “homo responsabilis” as a responsible human being who considers the long-term implications of their actions.

§ Bernard Lonergan (1904–1974), a Canadian Jesuit priest, theologian, and philosopher, stood out for exploring the concept of “responsible decision-making” and the need for a change in human consciousness towards a more global and future-oriented perspective. Lonergan’s ideas helped to consider the notion of “homo responsabilis” as an individual who makes informed decisions that consider the broader impact on society and the planet.

§ Ernst Bloch (1885–1977), a German philosopher, coined the concept of “utopian hope” to emphasize the importance of imagining a better future and acting responsibly to achieve it. He argued that humanity has a responsibility to strive for a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.

§ Leonardo Boff (1935-present), a Brazilian Franciscan friar, theologian, and philosopher, focused his work on so-called eco-theology and the ethical relationship between humans and the natural world. In his work, he advocates for a “culture of responsibility” that recognizes the interconnectedness of all living beings and the need to protect the environment.

§ Hans Küng (1928–2021), a Swiss Catholic theologian, explored the relationship between religion and ethics, emphasizing the importance of global responsibility and interfaith dialogue to address global challenges.

These thinkers made significant contributions to the development of the concept, for which their role in a collective intellectual discourse that involved various thinkers, activists, and movements throughout the 20th century is recognized. The concept currently reflects a growing awareness of the interconnectedness of humanity, the natural world, and the need for a more responsible approach to our planet and its inhabitants.

iii. Most Relevant Characteristics

Among the central characteristics associated with the concept are the following:

§ Individual responsibility, as “homo responsabilis” recognize that they are responsible for their own actions and decisions, and are willing to face the consequences of them. The “homo responsabilis” is responsible for their actions and strives for transparency in their decision-making processes. These subjects recognize the need to be accountable for their impact on the world and are open to scrutiny and feedback.

§ They are considered to have a high ethical awareness that guides their actions, since they not only consider their own interests, but also the impact that their decisions may have on others and on the world in general, both present and future, and they strive to act in a way that promotes justice, equity, and fairness. The “homo responsabilis” makes decisions based on ethical principles, prioritizing the common good over individual benefit. They have a deep awareness of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the delicate balance of ecosystems. They understand the consequences of their actions and the impact they have on the environment and society.

§ These individuals have a commitment to the common good, which implies that they are involved with the well-being and development of society as a whole, and are willing to contribute actively, significantly, and positively to the construction of a better world. The “homo responsabilis” is actively involved in addressing global challenges and takes responsibility for their role in creating a more sustainable and equitable world. In this sense, they participate in initiatives that promote environmental protection, social justice, and sustainable development.

§ They possess responsible autonomy and freedom, unlike the “homo consumus”, as they perfectly understand that these must be exercised responsibly, respecting the rights and freedoms of others and acting in harmony with ethical and moral principles, which implies taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions and the impacts they generate.

§ Empowerment and action, this implies that the “homo responsabilis” feel empowered enough to make positive changes in their lives and the world around them, and are willing to take concrete steps to achieve their goals and contribute to the common good. The “homo responsabilis” exhibits foresight and planning, considering the long-term implications of their decisions and actions. They recognize the need to act sustainably, ensuring that their decisions do not compromise the well-being of future generations.

iv. Importance of the Term

The concept of “homo responsabilis” is of great importance in addressing the complex challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. These call for a paradigm shift in human thinking and behavior, moving beyond a purely anthropocentric worldview towards a more holistic and responsible approach to the planet, the different species, and their inhabitants.

By adopting the principles of “homo responsabilis”, we can begin to work collectively to create a more sustainable, just, and equitable future for all. It is a call to action for individuals, communities, and governments to take responsibility for their actions and work together to ensure the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants for generations to come.

The term serves as a powerful reminder of the collective responsibility of the human species to act in a way that ensures the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, both present and future. This represents a clear and unmistakable call to action for individuals, communities, and governments to adopt a more sustainable, just, and equitable approach to their relationship with the world.

The concept challenges us to rethink our relationship with the planet and with each other. It calls for a new way of thinking and acting, one that is based on responsibility, solidarity, and a commitment to the common good. By embracing the principles of “homo responsabilis”, we can create a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

e) Homo Sustinens

i. Origin and Definition

This is an alternative concept developed by the German economist Bernd Siebenhüner (2000). It is translated from Latin as “sustainable man” and represents a theoretical model of a human being who prioritizes sustainability and living in harmony with the environment.

It essentially refers to a type of human being who is characterized by their ability to sustain themselves or to maintain their balance. The term comes from the Latin ‘sustinere’, which means, “to support, bear or stand up”. The concept is based on discoveries in evolutionary biology, neurobiology and psychology, and aims to create a more realistic and desirable anthropological basis for sustainability. The term is used in the context of sustainability, especially in relation to the way individuals interact with their environment and natural resources.

The “homo sustinens” differs from other concepts such as the “homo economicus”, which focuses on human behavior in terms of maximizing economic utility, and the “homo consumus”, which focuses on unbridled consumerism and the culture of consumption. It is attributed with skills of cooperation, communication, continuous learning and moral responsibility.

ii. Characteristics of Homo Sustinens

Social learning, moral responsibility and the social dimensions of human existence, such as cooperation, communication and altruism, characterize homo sustinens. The following are some key elements of “homo sustinens”:

§ Emphasizes sustainability[2], as it is characterized by making decisions that are aware of the environmental impact and the search for a balance between economic development and the protection of the planet. It recognizes the importance of preserving natural resources and the ecosystems on which we depend for our survival. Therefore, it adopts practices that minimize environmental impact, such as efficient energy use, waste reduction and biodiversity conservation.

§ Seeks a balance between himself and nature, unlike the “homo economicus” approach, which often prioritizes individual benefit without considering the environmental and social consequences, homo sustinens seeks a harmonious balance between human needs and the preservation of natural resources.

§ Possesses resilience and adaptability to environmental and social challenges, homo sustinens shows an ability to adapt and be resilient. It seeks creative and sustainable solutions to address problems, both at the individual and community level, promoting autonomy and resilience.

§ Demonstrates responsibility and commitment, as it assumes personal and collective responsibility for building a sustainable future. It is committed to making informed and ethical decisions that contribute to the preservation of the environment and the well-being of present and future generations.

In contrast to “homo economicus”, “homo sustinens” arises as an alternative model to homo economicus, which traditionally represents a purely rational individual who maximizes his personal benefit. The archetype under discussion represents a more balanced and conscious human approach in relation to the natural environment, promoting sustainability and harmony between humans and nature.

iii. Application of the Concept

The homo sustinens model is mainly used in ecological economics and public health. It serves to promote the idea that economic and public health decision-making should consider the long-term consequences for the environment and social well-being.

For a long time, economics promoted the concept of “homo economicus” as the most successful definition of human beings and the description of their behavior. However, given the serious analytical, behavioral and normative shortcomings it presents, a different conception based on the concept of sustainability and the findings of evolutionary biology and the field of neuroscience was proposed. This new idea serves the objectives and interests of the branch of ecological economics to consider the social dimension of human existence, as well as the emotional and evolutionary aspects, unlike the notion of exclusively individualistic, selfish and rational economic man that the concept of “homo economicus” proposes. Siebenhüner considers that little attention was paid to the underlying conception of humans as social and moral beings. Thus, moral responsibility seems to be an important determinant of human action due to the history of humans as beings who live in community. The concept of “homo sustinens” provides elements that emphasize individual and social learning for sustainable development.

In summary, the concept of homo sustinens represents a holistic and conscious approach to the relationship between humans and nature, prioritizing sustainability and harmony in all interactions with the natural and social environment.

iv. Importance of the Concept

The concept of “homo sustinens” is of great importance for addressing the complex challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. These call for a paradigm shift in human thinking and behavior, moving beyond a purely anthropocentric worldview towards a more holistic and responsible approach to the planet, the different species, and their inhabitants.

By adopting the principles of “homo sustinens”, we can begin to work collectively to create a more sustainable, just, and equitable future for all. It is a call to action for individuals, communities, and governments to take responsibility for their actions and work together to ensure the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants for generations to come.

The term serves as a powerful reminder of the collective responsibility of the human species to act in a way that ensures the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, both present and future. This represents a clear and unmistakable call to action for individuals, communities, and governments to adopt a more sustainable, just, and equitable approach to their relationship with the world.

The concept challenges us to rethink our relationship with the planet and with each other. It calls for a new way of thinking and acting, one that is based on responsibility, solidarity, and a commitment to the common good. By embracing the principles of “homo sustinens”, we can create a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

f) Homo Sustentabilis

i. Origin and definition

“Homo sustentabilis” is used to describe a type of human being that is oriented towards sustainability in all their actions and behaviors. This concept arises in the field of circular economy and social responsibility and implies a deep awareness and active commitment to the preservation of the environment, social equity, and economic viability, with the aim of ensuring the well-being of present and future generations (Marques AD et al., 2020).

In the sphere of sustainability discourse, the concept of “homo sustentabilis” emerges as a hope that represents an individual who actively strives to live in harmony with nature, minimizing their environmental impact and promoting sustainable practices. This concept summarizes a paradigm shift in human behavior, advocating for a conscious and responsible approach to human interactions on the planet. Therefore, it represents an aspirational or ideal human model that seeks to live in harmony with nature and its peers, adopting a comprehensive and responsible approach to sustainability in all facets of the human experience.

ii. Main Characteristics

The following are some characteristics that are linked to the concept of “homo sustentabilis”:

§ High environmental awareness: “Homo sustentabilis” individuals have a deep understanding of global environmental problems, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and environmental degradation. Therefore, they are fully committed to the protection and conservation of natural resources. This trait not only implies being informed about environmental problems, but also deeply understanding their causes and consequences. These individuals are highly committed to the preservation of natural ecosystems and the protection of flora and fauna.

§ They exhibit responsible behavior, so they adopt a conscious and consistent lifestyle with their principles, making decisions that minimize their environmental impact and promote sustainability. This may include practices such as reducing resource consumption, recycling, using renewable energy, and preferring ecological products. “Homo sustentabilis” individuals adopt daily practices that reflect their faithful and full commitment to sustainability. This includes making conscious decisions about resource consumption, such as reducing the use of single-use plastics, recycling and composting, as well as preferring more sustainable means of transport, such as walking, cycling or using public transport.

§ They pursue social equity by recognizing the close relationship between the environment and society, and advocating for social justice and equity in all their actions. They strive to promote inclusion, equal opportunities, and respect for human rights in all communities. This peculiarity implies recognizing that sustainability is not only about the environment, but also about people. “Homo sustentabilis” individuals are defenders of social justice and equal opportunities for all. They also advocate for the elimination of economic and social disparities, working to create more inclusive and resilient communities.

§ They practice a sustainable economy model by supporting economic models that seek sustainable development, such as the circular economy, fair trade, and investment in clean energy. They perfectly understand that economic prosperity must be in tune with environmental protection and social well-being. “Homo sustentabilis” individuals support productive models that seek to balance economic growth with environmental protection and social well-being. This leads them to support companies that operate ethically and sustainably, invest in renewable energy projects, and support public policies that promote economic equity and social justice.

§ Commitment to education and awareness raising about the importance of sustainability. “Homo sustentabilis” individuals share their knowledge and experience with others, promoting awareness and collective action to address environmental and social challenges. These people recognize the importance of education and awareness raising as tools for change. They also actively participate in outreach initiatives, such as talks, workshops, and awareness campaigns, to inspire others to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Together, these characteristics outline a human profile committed to building a more sustainable and equitable future for all. The “homo sustentabilis” not only recognizes the great challenges facing society, but also actively commits to being part of the solution, integrating sustainability into all facets of their life and promoting positive change in their environment.

iii. Homo Sustentabilis as a Paradigm Shift in Human Behavior

The emergence of “homo sustentabilis” signifies a crucial transformation in human behavior, marking a departure from the traditional model of unrestrained consumption and disregard for environmental and social consequences. This change is driven by a growing recognition among younger generations of the interconnectedness of human well-being and planetary health.

iv. Key driving elements of the “Homo Sustentabilis” movement:

The environmental crisis that includes climate change, pollution, and resource scarcity (water, energy, and food) has served as a wake-up call, prompting people to seek long-term sustainable solutions.

The overwhelming scientific consensus on the human-affected nature has fueled a sense of urgency and a call to action from governments, international organizations, businesses, and civil society actors.

Greater access to information and education has allowed people to understand the environmental consequences of their actions, leading to a growing demand for sustainable alternatives.

v. The Positive Impact of “Homo Sustentabilis”

Adopting the principles of “homo sustentabilis” can generate a multitude of positive results:

§ Reduced environmental and social impacts: By controlling and minimizing consumption, adopting sustainable practices, and supporting green businesses, “homo sustentabilis” can significantly reduce their environmental footprint.

§ Greater resource conservation: Through conscious consumption and waste reduction efforts, they can help conserve valuable natural resources and ensure their availability for future generations.

§ Preservation of ecosystems: By adopting sustainable practices, these actions can help protect biodiversity, maintain ecosystem health, and maintain the delicate balance of nature.

§ Increased human well-being: Through a clean and healthy environment, this action contributes to improving public health, reducing healthcare costs, and a better quality of life.

vi. Similarities and Differences between “Homo Sustentabilis” and “Homo Sustinens”

Both “homo sustentabilis” and “homo sustinens” share the goal of promoting a sustainable and balanced lifestyle to ensure human survival and the well-being of present and future generations. However, there are some key differences between the two concepts:

6.1. Similarities

§ Both concepts are rooted in the idea of promoting a lifestyle and human behavior that prioritizes sustainability. Both homo sustinens and homo sustentabilis recognize the importance of adopting practices that minimize environmental impact and promote the conservation of natural resources to ensure a sustainable future. They also recognize the interconnectedness of human well-being and planetary health, seeking to minimize their environmental impact and promote sustainable practices.

§ On the other hand, both homo sustinens and homo sustentabilis emphasize individual and collective responsibility for protecting the environment and the well-being of present and future generations. Both models advocate for making informed and ethical decisions that contribute to the preservation of the planet. These models or archetypes perfectly understand the long-term consequences of human actions and seek to protect natural resources for future generations.

§ Finally, both models emphasize the importance of recognizing that sustainability issues are not only about the environment, but also about people. In this sense, they advocate for social equity, inclusion, and respect for human rights in all communities.

6.2. Differences

In the field of sustainability, these two concepts have gained prominence. While both share the goal of a sustainable future, they represent different approaches and perspectives.

§ Homo sustinens derives from the concept of a human being who maintains balance with their environment, while homo sustentabilis refers to an individual who is oriented towards sustainability in all their actions and behaviors. While “homo sustinens” focuses on balance and harmony with nature, “homo sustentabilis” encompasses a broader approach that also considers economic, social, and public health aspects.

§ For its part, homo sustentabilis has a more comprehensive approach that includes economic, social, and public health aspects, in addition to the environmental focus. On the other hand, “homo sustinens” focuses primarily on the relationship between humans and nature, with less emphasis on other aspects of social and economic life.

§ Homo sustentabilis highlights the importance of education and awareness raising about sustainability as tools for change. This implies sharing knowledge and experiences to promote awareness and collective action. In contrast, “homo sustinens” focuses on individual and social learning for sustainable development, suggesting a more practical and action-oriented approach to the pursuit of sustainability.

Although different in their nuances, these two categories represent a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable future. Both concepts emphasize individual and collective responsibility, social justice, and harmony with the environment. Understanding their similarities and differences allows us to appreciate the richness and complexity of the approach to sustainability, and encourages us to adopt an active commitment to building a more prosperous and equitable future.

The concept represents a new paradigm for human behavior, one that is oriented towards sustainability in all its dimensions. It is a call to action for individuals, communities, and governments to adopt a more responsible and conscious approach to their relationship with the planet. By embracing the principles of “homo sustentabilis”, we can create a more sustainable, just, and equitable future for all.

The transition to a sustainable future requires a deep understanding of the concepts that underpin it. Both “homo sustinens” and “homo sustentabilis”, together, offer a valuable perspective on the role of humans in building a more harmonious and sustainable planet.

g) Homo Integralis or Universalis

The “homo integralis or universalis” represents a new conceptualization and is broader and more comprehensive than the previous ones about the role, nature, and purpose of the human being since it encompasses all the dimensions of its existence and its relationship with the world around it. This term is proposed primarily to reflect the notion that human beings cannot be understood in a fragmented way, but must be considered in their entirety, including economic, psychological, social, cultural, ethical, and environmental aspects.

In the category of “homo universalis”, it is fundamentally recognized that human beings are multidimensional beings that interact with their environment in a complex and diverse way over time. This perspective seeks to overcome the limitations of reductionist approaches that only consider specific aspects of human behavior, such as consumption (homo consumens) or economic rationality (homo economicus), and instead postulates a comprehensive understanding that takes into account all facets of the human experience.

The main characteristics of “homo universalis” include the following:

§ Interconnection: This characteristic recognizes that all areas of human life are interconnected and that individual actions have repercussions on multiple aspects of society and the environment. For example, economic decisions can affect not only a person’s financial well-being, but also employment, resource distribution, and environmental health. This interconnection reminds us that the human being lives in a complex system where everything is interrelated, and that solutions to social and environmental problems must be addressed holistically.

§ Completeness: By adopting a comprehensive approach, the “homo integralis or universalis” recognizes the importance of considering all dimensions of the human experience. This includes economic, psychological, social, cultural, ethical, and environmental aspects. By understanding the human being in its entirety, one can better understand the complexities of their behavior and the interactions between different aspects of their life. For example, a person’s psychological well-being can be influenced by economic, social, cultural, institutional, moral, and environmental factors, and vice versa.

§ Balance: The search for a harmonious balance implies finding a middle ground between individual and collective needs, as well as between human well-being and the sustainability of the environment and other species. This implies making decisions that promote integral human development without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Balance also refers to the need to find a middle ground between different interests and values in society, promoting cooperation and mutual respect.

§ Consciousness: Consciousness and social responsibility are fundamental in the perspective of “homo integralis or universalis”. This implies being aware of the impact of human actions on the natural and social world, and taking responsibility for acting ethically and sustainably. Consciousness allows informed decisions to be made and the long-term consequences of actions to be considered, both at the individual and collective level.

§ Adaptability: The ability to adapt is essential in a constantly changing world. The “homo integralis or universalis” recognizes the need to adapt and evolve in response to changes in the social, cultural, political, economic, institutional, and environmental environment. This implies being open to change, learning from our experiences, and seeking innovative solutions to the challenges facing human society. Adaptability allows us to take advantage of emerging opportunities and overcome obstacles that may arise on the path to integral and sustainable human development.

Overall, these characteristics of “homo integralis or universalis” provide a more complete and holistic view of the human being and their relationship with the world around them. By recognizing the interconnection of all areas of human life, the importance of considering all dimensions of the human experience, the need to find a harmonious balance between different interests, positions and values, the importance of consciousness and social responsibility, and the capacity for adaptation in the face of change, it is possible to aspire to a more balanced and sustainable human development in harmony with the natural and social environment.

This latest archetype represents a comprehensive and understanding vision of the human being that recognizes its complexity and diversity, and seeks to promote balanced and sustainable human development in harmony with the natural and social environment. The “homo integralis or universalis”, in this sense, brings together different positive aspects of the different approaches or terms (homo economicus, homo psicologicus, homo consumus, homo responsabilis, homo sustinens and homo sustentabilis), addressing the complexity of the human being and its relationship with the environment in a comprehensive way. However, its implementation can be challenging due to the need for coordination and collaboration between various actors and the consideration of multiple dimensions in decision-making.

Comparative Table of Homo Archetypes

Homo Archetype

Focus and Characteristics

Current Relevance and Sustainability

Homo

Economicus

Maximization of economic utility and individual benefit. Purely rational and self-interested approach.

Unsustainable approach as it does not consider the social or environmental consequences of actions. Can lead to overexploitation of resources and environmental degradation. Not suitable for current circumstances where a more balanced and sustainable approach is needed.

Homo

Psychologicus

Considers psychological aspects of human behavior in decision-making.

Important for understanding the motivations and perceptions that drive human behavior, which can be useful for designing strategies to promote sustainable behaviors. Its current relevance lies in its ability to influence the adoption of more sustainable habits and behaviors by understanding the psychological factors that influence decisions.

Homo

Consumus

or Consumens

Focus on unrestrained consumerism and consumer culture. Prioritizes the acquisition of goods and services without considering sustainability.

Not suitable for current circumstances as it promotes a lifestyle based on excessive consumption, which can have a negative impact on the environment due to the overexploitation of natural resources and waste generation. We need a more balanced and sustainable approach that promotes responsible consumption practices.

Homo

Responsabilis

Focus on individual and collective responsibility for protecting the environment and the well-being of present and future generations.

Relevant for promoting a culture of environmental responsibility and encouraging active participation in environmental protection. Its importance lies in its ability to raise awareness about the importance of sustainability and motivate concrete actions to address environmental and social challenges.

Homo

Sustinens

Prioritizes sustainability and living in harmony with the environment. Characterized by adopting practices that minimize environmental impact and promote cooperation and moral responsibility.

Important for seeking a balance between human needs and the preservation of natural resources. Its current relevance lies in its ability to promote a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle that ensures the health of the planet for future generations.

Homo

Sustentabilis

Oriented towards sustainability in all their actions and behaviors. Promotes sustainable practices and social equity.

Essential for promoting sustainable and equitable practices that address environmental and social challenges. Its current relevance lies in its ability to integrate sustainability into all facets of human life and promote positive change in society towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

Homo Integralis

or Universalis

Considers all dimensions of human existence and its relationship with the surrounding world. Seeks a harmonious balance between individual and collective needs, as well as between human well-being and the sustainability of the environment.

Most suitable for current circumstances and sustainability as it recognizes the complexity of the human being and its interaction with the environment, encompassing social, economic, environmental, and psychological aspects. Allows the design of holistic strategies to promote sustainable and equitable development.

vii. Final Comment (Conclusion)

The “homo integralis or universalis” emerges as an extremely relevant and comprehensive archetype in the current context, where sustainability and a holistic understanding of human life are essential. Its multifaceted approach encompasses all dimensions of existence, recognizing the intricate interconnection between the social, cultural, economic, environmental, institutional, and psychological aspects of human experience.

In a world marked by interdependence and increasing complexity, where challenges such as climate change, social inequality, and environmental degradation require integrated solutions, the approach of “homo integralis or universalis” can offer an intriguing perspective. By considering economics, psychology, culture, ethics, and the environment together, this approach allows for a better understanding of the root of problems and the design of more effective and sustainable strategies to address them.

Moreover, “homo integralis or universalis” seeks a harmonious balance between individual and collective needs, recognizing that human well-being is intrinsically linked to the health of the planet. This approach reflects a profound understanding of the interdependence between humans and nature, and the need to promote development that respects and protects both.

In conclusion, homo integralis or universalis offers a solid and comprehensive framework for promoting sustainability and human well-being as a whole. Its ability to integrate different perspectives and dimensions of human experience makes it especially relevant and effective for addressing the complex challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.

VIII. Recommendations: The path towards “homo integralis or universalis”

The transition towards a world where “homo integralis or universalis” is the reference, model, or norm within the Sustainable Market Economy (SME) model necessarily requires a multi-actor, intercultural, multifaceted, and multi-thematic approach that encompasses individual, social, and global efforts.

7.1. At the individual level:

Fostering a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all aspects of life, the principles of sustainability, and the concept of “homo integralis or universalis” is essential. This can be achieved through formal education, public awareness campaigns, and community engagement initiatives.

Additionally, encouraging the development of critical thinking in individuals so they have the ability to analyze complex problems, identify root causes, and develop innovative solutions that consider all dimensions of the problem is essential. This can be fostered through experiential learning, creative thinking exercises, and exposure to diverse perspectives.

Furthermore, individuals should be encouraged to make informed and ethical decisions that consider the long-term consequences of their actions and the well-being of others. This is fundamental and can be achieved through ethical education, role modeling, and creating spaces and opportunities for personal and interpersonal reflection.

7.2. At the social level:

Creating supportive policy frameworks that promote sustainable practices encourage social equity, and foster a culture of responsibility is crucial. This includes policies related to education, healthcare, environmental protection, and economic development.

Changing social norms and promoting values that align with the principles of “homo integralis or universalis” is essential. This can be achieved through public discourse, promotion of the arts and media, and community engagement initiatives.

Finally, promoting collaboration among governments, businesses, civil society organizations, and individuals to address complex challenges is crucial. This can be facilitated through dialogue platforms, development of joint initiatives, and identification of shared goals among different societal groups.

7.3. At the global level:

Seeking support from international cooperation and agreements that promote sustainable development, address global challenges, and uphold human rights is essential. This can be achieved through multilateral organizations, international treaties, and global initiatives.

Facilitating the exchange of knowledge, best practices, and innovative technologies across borders is indispensable to accelerate progress towards a sustainable and equitable future. This can be achieved through the creation of international partnerships, fostering research collaborations, and enabling capacity-building programs.

Finally, addressing global inequalities and promoting social justice is necessary. Tackling global inequalities, ensuring access to basic needs, and promoting social justice are necessary to create a world where the principles and values of “homo integralis or universalis” can thrive. This requires extensive international cooperation, community-specific interventions, and an unwavering commitment to human rights.

References:

  • Marques, AD, Marques, A. & Ferreira, F. Homo Sustentabilis: circular economy and new business models in the fashion industry. Aplica SN Ciencia. 2, 306 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42452-020-2094-8
  • Siebenhüner, B. (2000). Homo sustinens — Towards a new conception of humans for the science of sustainability. Ecological Economics. 32. 15–25. 10.1016/S0921–8009(99)00111–1.

Notes:

[1] The “homo consumus” concept represents a critical perspective on the role of consumption in contemporary society. It highlights the negative impacts of excessive consumption and the need for more sustainable and responsible consumption practices. By promoting education, awareness, and alternative consumption models, it is possible to move towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

[2] Homo sustinens is aware of the impact of its actions on the environment and on future generations. Therefore, it adopts a proactive approach to the conservation and protection of the natural environment, promoting environmental education and awareness of environmental problems.

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Cesar Reyna Ugarriza

Creador de la Negociación Integrativa Transformadora Intercultural (NITI) y de la Teoría del Relacionamiento Intercultural... Correo: cesarreyna78@gmail.com