Ecological Intelligence

Ecological Intelligence

28 July, 2011
Daniel Goleman’s new book
Exploring the compassionate consumption trend
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Ecological Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, attempts to make a the connection for the reader between how much we know about what we buy and how it impacts the planet. It examines and explains how green buzzwords have power to influence consumers. Goleman describes how some of these buzzwords may mean very little indeed, unless backed up with transparent access to information on practices and processes. The title of the first chapter sums it up eloquently - "Green is a Mirage”.
Goleman uses telling case studies of how consumer behaviour relays current perceptions. In one case, he writes of a study of the effect of labels such as ‘produced with fair labour standards’ on towels. When the towels with and without the label were priced evenly, they sold slightly more of the 'ethically' labelled. However when the price of the 'ethically' labelled was substantially higher than the alternative, far more of the labelled ones were sold! Goleman speculates that consumer perception is that eco and ethical labels that cost more are seen to be creditable. However, Goleman also brings forward a case study showing the exact opposite case in working-class Detroit. In this case, hardware supplies labelled with eco friendly labels sold evenly compared to those without labels if evenly priced, but sales of the ones with the label dropped substantially if they cost even one cent more. Goleman then goes into more detail, breaking down consumer profiles and categories. Another thought provoking case study in chapter 15 gives readers a moral dilemma - is it wrong to buy paper from a Forest Stewardship Council certified company, if another branch of the same company actively clear cuts rainforests in Indonesia?

Goleman argues that capitalism drives companies to increase profits, while the common good is not a priority to business until consumers demand it. The message of this book is that if consumers are empowered with information through radical transparency, corporations will be forced to become more moral in their business practices. Information on business practices, products and production methods will lead consumers to be able to shop compassionately. For any business planning for the future, Ecological Intelligence is a great introduction to trends that are influencing today’s consumers and will be increasingly doing so into the future.

By: Carley Lauder
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