The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Strategic CSR - Green Noise

The article in the url below introduces the concept of “green noise”:

“green noise” -- static caused by urgent, sometimes vexing or even contradictory information [about the environment] played at too high a volume for too long.”

The idea of “green noise” adds value to the debate. While terms like “greenwashing” describe the conduct of firms, “green noise” presents a consumer perspective on the exponential growth in information on issues related to the environment and climate change that is often contradictory. The overall effect is to obfuscate, rather than clarify, whether deliberately or with good intentions:

“An environmentally conscientious consumer is left to wonder: are low-energy compact fluorescent bulbs better than standard incandescents, even if they contain traces of mercury? Which salad is more earth-friendly, the one made with organic mixed greens trucked from thousands of miles away, or the one with lettuce raised on nearby industrial farms? Should they support nuclear power as a clean alternative to coal?”

In outlining the concept of “green noise” the article also highlights the effect of this information overload on consumer behavior:

“… consumers surveyed in 2007 were between 22 and 55 percent less likely to buy a wide range of green products than in 2006. The slipping economy had an effect, but message overload appeared to be a major factor as well.”

There is an interesting relationship between the amount of information and effective decision making—the idea that more information is better, but too much leads to paralysis and, consequently, bad or non decisions:

“Diane Tompkins, a founder of the Curious Company, a market research firm based in San Francisco … has conducted focus groups to investigate the psychological barriers to taking action for the sake of the environment. The activist groups ''believe that, surely, if I just gave them one more reason why they should do it, then they would,'' she said. ''But the fact is, people are not motivated by more facts. That can just reinforce their feeling of helplessness."”

Take care

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
Sage Publications, 2006

That Buzz In Your Ear May Be Green Noise
1540 words
15 June 2008
The New York Times
Late Edition - Final