Do Green Products Make Us Better People? No.


Does a form of halo effect make green consumers more dishonest?

Mike recently thought it Weird that People Who Visit National Parks are LESS Likely to Support Conservation NGOs. But there might be good reason for this: the "Licence Phenomenon," described in a new study of people who buy green products.

The study claims that people act more altruistically after walking by green products, but they are more likely to lie, cheat and steal after purchasing them. Nina Mazar of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto says "green products do not necessarily make us better people."

Mazar and co-author Chen-Bo Zhong write in the study (pdf here) :

Although people prefer to have a positive moral self, maintaining it often comes at a cost because social and ethical dilemmas usually involve conflicts of interest. Thus, people tend to be strongly motivated to engage in pro-social and ethical behaviors if their moral self is threatened by a recent transgression; they are least likely to scrutinize moral implications and regulate their behaviors right after their moral self experienced a boost from a good deed. This implies that virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviors.

Or, as it was put more simply in the Globe and Mail,

The researchers theorize that the effect stems from a "licence" phenomenon; When people do something right, they feel it gives them licence to act unethically in other areas.

Mazar concluded that buying green "doesn't necessarily mean that we will be morally better in other things as well."

Abstract of the paper here.

Related Content on