Monday, November 30, 2009

How Big a Difference Can GoodGuide Make?

I think has tremendous upside. Just by casually browsing, it became obvious to me that the site was young and imperfect. It certainly needs to expand and cover more products, but I think its concept can help us and the environment at the same time. That being said, I'm not as optimistic as Daniel Goleman that knowledge of environmental friendliness will sway consumers.

I decided to look up three different categories of food on GoodGuide, and see how two companies compare within each category. I matched Frito-Lay against Wise Foods, Pepsi against Coke, and Peter Pan against Jif. I wanted to see if these companies, competing for the same consumers within their category, had significantly different ratings in the database.

First, the match-up between chip companies. Unfortunately, GoodGuide lacked the thorough breakdown of ratings for both companies. It did say that Frito-Lay earned a 4.3 brand rating, and Wise Foods edged them out with a 4.4 rating. I don't believe this to be a significant difference, but considering how seldom I actually eat chips, I would have very little difficulty being loyal to Wise Foods over Frito-Lay.

Second, I checked the ratings for the two soda behemoths. This time, GoodGuide had a full breakdown of the colas, but not the entire soda companies. Considering how similar in product and business the two are, I was surprised to find that Coke rated higher than Pepsi, 4.2 to 3.8. Though neither overall rating instills much confidence, Coke led the environment category 7.0 to 5.5. I will keep this in mind when next purchasing soda. If both products are interchangeable, why not choose the more eco-friendly one?

Lastly, I compared Peter Pan peanut butter to one of it's competitors, Jif. The difference between the two was a mere 0.1; the edge going to Jif. Whereas with chips and soda, I have very little preference, with peanut butter, I heavily favor Peter Pan. In the environment category, Jif prevailed by 0.2, but I don't feel like that difference is enough to make me abandon a product I prefer. This, I think, could big a problem for GoodGuide.

I don't believe consumers, especially Americans, will feel strongly enough about environmental impacts to avoid products they prefer. In the video we watched in class, Daniel Goleman and Bill Moyers discuss two shampoos, and their ratings on GoodGuide. They point out that the cheaper of the two is actually the more eco-friendly, and that this should dissuade consumers from the belief that pricier items are better. What they fail to mention, however, is which shampoo leaves the hair in better condition. If the more expensive, less green product outperforms the other, in terms of hair care quality, people will continue to buy it. Knowing a product is better for the environment will persuade some consumers to buy it, but many people will continue to buy the product they prefer, no matter the environmental impact.

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