I work at Earth911, which I enjoy for many reasons, not the least of which is that I’m helping people all over the country find local resources for recycling.
Today one of our writers, Katherine Chen, posted an article Is Buying ‘Green’ All About Status?. The article is interesting from a consumer’s perspective but it get’s really interesting when you look at it from a business perspective. The academic paper that prompts the question is way more useful in a business context. It concludes with the following statement:
Because earning a good reputation can increase an individual’s status in a group, to be altruistic is to act in one’s own self-interest. That is, given that self-sacrifice can communicate the altruist’s willingness and ability to incur the costs of helping, a good reputation already signals that a person has the resources to afford such a reputation, which is important in attaining things that are difficult to purchase with money directly (e.g., friendship, love). Thus, even if nice guys do not appear to finish first today, nice guys’ genes may finish first generations from now.
This really hits home for me, because I’m always amazed at how casually we look at altruistic actions as an either/or decision. The full paper wasn’t linked from the article, probably because it’s so academic in nature. It’s by Vladas Griskevicius and you can download the paper here.