Daniel Goleman is a psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. Working as a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half.
Goleman’s latest book is Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. The book argues that new information technologies will create “radical transparency,” allowing us to know the environmental, health, and social consequences of what we buy. As shoppers use point-of-purchase ecological comparisons to guide their purchases, market share will shift to support steady, incremental upgrades in how products are made – changing every thing for the better.
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, was published in 2006. Social intelligence, the interpersonal part of emotional intelligence, can now be understood in terms of recent findings from neuroscience. Goleman’s book describes the many implications of this new science, including for altruism, parenting, love, health, learning and leadership.
Question: How will ecological intelligence transform the marketplace?
Daniel Goleman: Well, I think this is, perhaps, the biggest breakthrough in environmental politics since I don’t know what. Because all of a sudden, we can connect the impacts of everything we buy and know what they are instead of not knowing and therefore not having any say in the matter and we can… we can do 3 simple things, we can know the impacts of the stuff we buy, we can favor improvements, and we can tell other people what we’ve just done. And if we do that, we will begin a market mechanism, I believe, that will ripple through supply chains and upgrade how people operate in business. Because, as market share shifts, it changes the internal discussion in companies where, right now, there are some people who think, hey, we should be more sustainable in how we operate. And your reply is, well, show me the business case, it’s not going to pay. But as customers start to say, I care about this, I’m not going to buy this shampoo with carcinogen, I’m not going to buy your hamburger that’s destroying the Amazon, I’m not going to buy this… I’m not going to buy… I’m going to buy anything that’s better. All of a sudden, what you’ve done is mobilized innovation, mobilized ways to improve things for business because that’s where the market is going. So what it does is actually helped those of us who care about the environment, about our health, and our family’s health, about the conditions of the people who make our stuff, it helps us help people in companies do the right thing. It’s kind of a virtuous cycle, you could call it.