Monday, 23 November 2009

‘Eco’ Selling – Beware the Climate Con

We are being inflicted with a con so insidious that even the perpetrators believe their own sales pitch. The con is based on a number of true statements and a few apparently logical deductions. Beware, because this con is sweeping through the shopping malls, mail order catalogues and internet sales sites.

The traditional con involves fooling people into thinking they have stumbled across some easy money. Con artists often play on a person’s weakness such as loneliness, insecurity, poor health or simple ignorance. This con is based on people’s growing awareness that climate change is a potentially serious problem. It is widely known that reducing our carbon footprint is one action we should take and this is starting to influence purchase decisions. It is scandalous that this change of attitude is being exploited by unscrupulous traders.

First, we need to understand the mechanism of the con so we do not get trapped by it. The scam relies on ignorance that climate change is part of a greater challenge. The prime challenge is to make society sustainable. Reducing carbon emissions is only part of the change required. Focus too hard on carbon and we will miss spotting the greater issue. This is like the con artist that grabs our attention to persuade us to part with our cash whilst hiding the true nature of the transaction.

The example I came across this week was a throw-away consumer product that was presented as ‘eco’ because of the carbon reductions associated with its use. Buy this product and you will drive less and consume fewer other throw-away products. The product itself was a classic example of buy it for Christmas, use it for a while and then chuck it when the novelty has worn off. Watch out for this green spin marketing ploy. It will trap a lot of people until we start to see ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco’ as more than a carbon counting exercise.

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