Creating the kind of “radical transparency” necessary to change consumer behavior, which will, in turn, change manufacturer behavior, will require enormous amounts of data, and data compiled in an honest fashion, and, most important, date that can be made available to consumers.
Goleman notes that a company called GoodGuide, Inc. has made a good start. The people at GoodGuide have compiled the Life Cycle Assessment data for, for example, the ingredients for a host of products, especially things like soap, shampoo, etc., rating them based on their “green” qualities.
The bottom line is this: If consumers have access to honest data and, most important, at the moment of purchase, they will be more likely to make active decisions about how “green” they want their consumption to be. As they do, manufacturers (like Parliament in the 18th century) will be forced to make changes in their products.
More manufacturers will, we can all hope, consider using “cradle to cradle” manufacturing methods and materials, instead of relying, as they do now, on “cradle to grave” manufacturing methods and materials.
Goleman calls this a “virtuous cycle”: When information about a product changes consumers’ brand preferences, the resulting market shift in turn will lead companies to offer more of the [green] improvements shoppers want. Buyers with easy access to accurate ecological information will “chang[e] their behavior,” and that in turn will prompt “sellers to change their business practices.”
Again, I’m simplifying Goleman’s argument, which he backs up with plenty of data and information of his own.
But his basic argument is compelling: What matters is not just information itself, but on-the-spot access to that information. The more easily consumers get information, the more likely they will be to act on it in ecologically positive ways.
Put another way — and now you see where I’m going with all of this — contrary to that reviewer at Amazon, it’s possible for consumer behavior to launch and sustain revolution. And history has provided us with a powerful example, in fact the most important example in human history, of how that can be done.
See? I told you this would all hang together in the end!