Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith comes out for Global Cool

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Our Philosophy | No Comments

adam smithGlobal Cool’s approach is to ‘sell’ low-carbon lifestyles. We focus on how they are desirable to the individual:

  • Get on a bus because you get lots of lovely time to yourself.
  • Go on holiday by train rather than flying, because you’ll have a better adventure.
  • Turn your heating down because it’s better for your skin.

This contrasts with many other green/ environmental campaigns which focus on the benefits to the environment. Global Cool takes this approach because, demonstrably, most people aren’t acting to reduce their environmental impact, ie, talking about the environment manifestly isn’t sufficient.

So, sometimes we get accused of pandering to self-interest. Better, some say, to focus on the shared long-term interest we all have in preserving the environment.

Really? Is immediate self-interest a bad way to get things done?

I bet that you ate food for dinner last night. Whilst, for sure, everybody shares a preference for a society in which everyone gets fed, that shared interest isn’t how you and your dinner came together:

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”* said no less a thinker than Adam Smith, the pioneer of political philosophy, who you’ll recognise from £20 notes.

Self-interest is how almost everything gets done: and is far more effective a call-to-action than benevolence. Adam Smith continued:

But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour.

Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want…. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages”.

This which Global Cool wants is for people to live greener lives, so we address ourselves not to people’s humanity (or environmental concern) which would be in vain, but to their self-love. We talk not of our own agenda (green/ the environment) of which we have constant occasion for help but rather talk about – and show – how the green options we promote are of their advantages.

And – just as Smith said it would – it seems to be working. “I like the way your campaigns work.  Not “don’t do this, don’t do that cause it’s bad for the environment” but instead “you could do this cause it’s fun and happens to be good for the environment”, said one person in a focus group. There’s plenty more data too in Selling Green Lifestyles: Results from Two Years’ Innovation which discusses our model and the results from two years of campaigns.

*The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter II, pg.19

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We run Global Cool, the only online magazine in the UK truly inspiring the mainstream to live greener

We create content about music, fashion, celebrity and lifestyle trends. We use this content to inspire people normally turned off by climate change to lead greener lives. We reached more than 200,000 people in 2011 and we don't preach to the converted. In fact, 93% of our audience say we are the only green organisation they engage with.

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