I’ve been thinking about motives a lot recently. I went to the local drug store the other day, one that is part of a very large national chain. Apparently, they have started to charge $0.05 for each bag that you require.
On the surface this seems to be an environmentally aware thing to do. Charging for things reduces demand for them, right? But a few hours later, in a conversation with my sister, I realized that what I saw as a positive motivation to charge for these bags could be seen in a completely different light.
My sister’s point? That these bags cost about one cent apiece, so this drug store was actually making a profit on this so-called environmentally friendly move. And to rub salt in the wound, all of these bags had the store’s logo on them. So now we are paying to distribute this chain’s advertising. Finally, she pointed out that this drug store had much higher prices than did Walmart, which continues to provide customers bags. Her take on the store’s move to sell bags? That it was green washing – a move to increase profits while portraying it as an environmentally friendly initiative.
Research has shown that when we are suspicious of another person’s underlying motives, that we can discount their actions as being self-interested. Yes, perhaps this drug store is being self-interested, but it doesn’t change the fact that this move is also environmentally responsible. Yet many people won’t give the store credit for this, because they believe that it really is about self-interest.
The take away from all of this? Be careful when you undertake so-called social responsibility initiatives. If there is any possible perception of self-interest, your brand will actually pay a negative price for the move.