The down side of Win-win business strategies

In recent years, many organizations have sought to align their financial goals with environmental ones by identifying strategies that maximize profits while minimizing environmental impacts. Examples of this ‘win–win’ approach can be found across a wide range of industries, from encouraging the reuse of hotel towels, to the construction of energy efficient buildings, to the large-scale initiatives of multi-national corporations. Although win–win strategies are generally thought to reflect positively on the organizations that employ them, here we find that people tend to respond negatively to the notion of profiting from environmental initiatives. In fact, observers may evaluate environmental win–wins less favourably than profit-seeking strategies that have no environmental benefits. The present studies suggest that how those initiatives are communicated to the general public may be of central importance. Therefore, organizations would benefit from carefully crafting the discourse around their win–win initiatives to ensure that they avoid this type of backlash.

Makov, T., and Newman, G.E., (2016), "Economic Gains Stimulate Negative Evaluations of Corporate Sustainability Initiatives," Nature Climate Change, 6 (9), 844-846.