Research and data can throw rather interesting theories and a recent one by Uma Karmakar, a Harvard Professor and Bryan Bollinger of Fuqua threw up an interesting argument.
Their research drew a correlation that shoppers who brought their own bags to recycle would tend to buy more organic versions of food. One green action led to another. But the same people were most likely to buy ice cream, chips candy bars and cookies. These shoppers weren’t replacing green items with junk. They were just adding junk to the cart.
Uma’s research says:
You do good and you give yourself a cookie
If I behave well in one situation, I give myself license to misbehave in another.
I get a diet coke – I get myself a hamburger.
If I have carried my recyclable bag, I have helped the environment – so I have earned the icecream.
In consumer psychology ‘licensing is the key’
License to indulge or licence to be corrupt
Corruption isn’t only in financial parlance. Corruption is a simple word that means questionable intent wherein individuals don’t do what they are supposed to do or they do what they aren’t supposed to do.
‘Corruption in my most simplified connotation is diluted intent’
A simplified parallel can be drawn between the research above and over zealous and tom tomming ceos and executives in positions of authority and also between politicians who pretend to be paragons of virtue. And if you look around you there will be ample to locate.
People who are loud and brash and are over confident of their performance and cannot stop tom tomming are the people that boards and top leaders must watch out for. As corporations grow, more than often we would come across executives who are always on the right side of everything, who would always be too good to be true, whose integrity would always be seemingly unquestionable, who would always get loud in tricky situations to create a facade of invincibility. These could be the very people who would have hidden traits of Jeffery Skilling of Enron, Martha Stewart or Carly Fiorina who would put their businesses and its reputation in harm’s way.
Politicians aren’t terribly different either. The most corrupt politicians are the ones who indulge maximum in public service. India has a huge concept of farm and gas subsidies paid by the combination of fiscal deficit and tax payers money. But a fraction reaches the end user and yet the powers that be seldom show a real intent to weed out this structural flaw in public distribution because this money in some form or the other finds its way back into the politicians personal coffer.
The more money is allocated for infrastructure, the more we hear of people vanishing in open gutters during rains in India, the farmer suicides is now a global debate and yet no serious intent has been shown by the polity – for how else, but through corruption, would the elections be financed in India which is really the root cause and forms the bedrock of all corruption.
Bertrand Russel rightly quipped – Fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.
And next time be on a watch when someone tries to take the recycling of grocery bags to a level of obsession or talks too loud about ones virtues of honesty and righteousness.