The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Strategic CSR - The Prius Fallacy

The article in the url below identifies and defines the “Prius Fallacy”:

… a belief that switching to an ostensibly more benign form of consumption turns consumption itself into a boon for the environment.

The Prius Fallacy refers to our ability to convince ourselves that the best way to solve our excessive resource depletion of the Earth is to consume more things—essentially:

… reframing luxury consumption preferences as gifts to humanity. A new car, a solar-powered swimming-pool heater, a 200-mile-an-hour train that makes intercity travel more pleasant and less expensive, better-tasting tomatoes—these are the sacrifices we're prepared to make for the future of the planet.

By substituting one (possibly) greener product for another, we kill two birds with one stone—satisfying both our psychological and material needs. What we fail to realize, however, is that even as we innovate, rather than reducing our environmental impact, the unintended consequence is often the opposite (see The Jevons Paradox):

The main effect of additional engineering improvements [to airplanes and travel routes] will be the same as for all such improvements in the past: to make travel easier, cheaper, more convenient and more attractive—thus encouraging us to do more of it.

By continuing to support and work within the current paradigm, the overall effect is to make the problem worse, even while we convince ourselves that we are making it better:

Global energy use is growing faster than population. It's expected to double by midcentury, and most of the growth will be in fossil fuels.

Take care

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It’s Too Easy Being Green
By David Owen
April 14, 2012
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final