A recent study by the Rotman School of Management indicates that being near products that are considered “green” can make people behave nicer to each other, but when they actually purchase these green items the products actually have the opposite effect.
The researchers found that buying green products leads people into behaving less than nice towards each other, even making them more apt to steal and lie. It seems buying such products makes people believe they’ve earned “moral credentials” and gives them a “license” to act in a questionable fashion.
The study conducted three different experiments. The first showed people perceived green consumers to be more cooperative, kinder etc. than those people who buy conventional products. The second showed that people who simply saw green products were much more likely to share money than those who actually purchased the green items. Finally, the research showed the those who purchased items in a green store were more likely to steal and lie in the experimental game.
But whether or not people are conscious of what the study refers to as “green washing” and the fact that those who purchase green might sub consciously feel less remorse when doing wrong remains to be seen.
You can learn more about the study here.