Business 2.0, Government 2.0, Social media & networking, Sustainability

“Green confidence” and the power of peers

I have been catching up on some reading the past few days, and came across Joel Makower’s post introducing the Green Confidence Index.

The index is a monthly research report “tracking Americans’ attitudes about and confidence in their leaders and institutions, nationally and locally, on the subject of environmental responsibility, as well as in their own understanding of issues and their willingness to make green purchasing choices”.

Joel has often lamented the irregular survey’s on the public’s willingness to “buy green” in the past, and this seems like a concrete step towards creating a stronger data-set and getting a clearer indication of attitudes.

Two comments in Joel’s introduction stood out for me. In describing the September results of the first component of the index, “Responsibility”, he notes:

Responsibility — how well various groups and institutions are addressing environmental issues: too much, enough, or too little. The groups include the U.S. government, state and local governments, major corporations, individuals’ own employers, their neighbors, and themselves (weight: 40%).

Later, he reports:

Another question asked what sources of environmental information Americans use and trust. The bad news for companies: Corporate websites and blogs ranked last in a list of 13 media types in terms of their use and trust. Word of mouth was seen to be potent: Friends, family, and colleagues ranked highest as the most used and trusted, followed by consumer ratings and reviews. Green blogs and websites had the biggest trust-use gap: they are a trusted information resource, though their usage lags.

I think both of these are reflective of the power of peer networks. In the first, the proximity of a person to their peers creates a tendency to see them as more trustworthy, therefore perceived to be more likely to be doing the right thing. (One could also argue that respondents wanted to not be seen as doing the “wrong” thing.)

The second point is a reflection of the well understood trend, exemplified by Edeleman’s Trust Barometer, that peers hold much stronger influence than corporations.

While I’m clearly biased given my line of work, I can’t help but equate these things back the role that social networks have to play in advancing sustainability…

There’s a sample report available for free if you’re interested in the results of the initial surveys. The service is then charged at an introductory annual fee of USD$299 (usually USD$499).