Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything
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The bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership now brings us Ecological Intelligence—revealing the hidden environmental consequences of what we make and buy, and how with that knowledge we can drive the essential changes we all must make to save our planet and ourselves.
We buy “herbal” shampoos that contain industrial chemicals that can threaten our health or contaminate the environment. We dive down to see coral reefs, not realizing that an ingredient in our sunscreen feeds a virus that kills the reef. We wear organic cotton t-shirts, but don’t know that its dyes may put factory workers at risk for leukemia. In Ecological Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reveals why so many of the products that are labeled green are a “mirage,” and illuminates our wild inconsistencies in response to the ecological crisis.
Drawing on cutting-edge research, Goleman explains why we as shoppers are in the dark over the hidden impacts of the goods and services we make and consume, victims of a blackout of information about the detrimental effects of producing, shipping, packaging, distributing, and discarding the goods we buy.
But the balance of power is about to shift from seller to buyer, as a new generation of technologies informs us of the ecological facts about products at the point of purchase. This “radical transparency” will enable consumers to make smarter purchasing decisions, and will drive companies to rethink and reform their businesses, ushering in, Goleman claims, a new age of competitive advantage.
individual choices. But I ran out of steam, conceding “there is no such information available, and even the most ecologically concerned among us do not really know the net effect on the planet of how we live. And so our obliviousness lets us slip into a grand self-deception that the small and large decisions in our material lives are of no great consequence.” All those years ago I had never heard of industrial ecology, the discipline that routinely does the very impact analyses I dreamed of.
institutional buyers are applying. Dara O'Rourke's hope for GoodGuide is “to provide a giant lever that shifts markets to prod manufacturers incrementally to get better across the board.” But that lever for change might be pushed for any of a variety of reasons beyond responding to a shift in the market, from ethical concerns and commitments to social responsibility to the effort to protect a brand's reputation. Here the old sixties slogan “Power to the people” takes on new force, empowering
as possible. This school of thought tells us it's wise to be concerned and cautious, shunning products that contain chemicals of concern. Even if these chemicals are not proven dangers (and it may never be possible to prove such danger to the satisfaction of all parties), the prudent shopper would likely avoid them when possible. Ecological health holds that any step that reduces biochemical stress on an organic system will have a cascade of benefits. Since our total body burden of toxins
minor violations but found the factory to be in “acceptable” compliance, based on reassurances by factory managers that problems would be remedied. In O'Rourke's view, the auditors, with their extensive training in fiscal details, were not up to the challenge of a social audit. O'Rourke also questioned the standard practice of letting consulting firms that provide their services to a company also monitor the impacts of factories that supply those companies, because of potential conflicts of
on conventional power from the electric grid and natural gas for its operations to renewable energy. “We identified price volatility as a business risk we had not identified before,” says Hagen. “So both to eliminate CO2 emissions and hedge energy costs, we looked for renewable sources wherever we could—we're now at twenty percent renewable sources. That decision has insulated us a bit from the rising costs of energy.” When the bottom line is the sole arbiter of decision making, some or many of