Cranky About Cause Marketing

Lucy over at Philanthropy 2225 blog is feeling more than just a little cranky about how companies and consumers are apparently using cause marketing to ease their guilt:

Suddenly, carbon trading is hip. Travelocity has announced its Go Zero program - book your trip through the site, pay an extra fee, offset your carbon use, leave your guilt behind. It's a feel-good way to pollute.

Heck, I'm all for easing my guilt. I just think we need to do it by changing our behaviors, not just by "buying" our way into feeling better.

She's right, of course.  In an ideal world people wouldn't want to do well AND good, they would just do good.

But that's not the world we live in. 

People are naturally self-interested and like to be incentivized to change their behavior.  And in the case of the Go Zero program, isn't this a good thing?  Consumers are encouraged to take action against the dangerous effects of carbon and the Conservation Fund gets a few bucks.  Travelocity gets a little public relations and, if it's lucky, a little more consumer loyalty in a cutthroat industry.  The net effect: a tree is planted that helps reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  How great is that?

Lucy, consumers may be buying their way to feeling better, but they're also gaining greater awareness, contributing to a nonprofit and planting a tree.  If that's a bad thing then cause marketing must be the very best of what's bad and wrong in this world.

Finally, thanks for the plug for The Savvy Giver, Lucy.  I would have preferred you called the cause marketing deals I profile something better than "schemes", but, hey, as I always say: say what you want about me, just spell my URL right.