Ecological Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, the author of the best selling book Emotional Intelligence, has just published a fantastic new book called Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Changes Everything.

In this book, Goleman argues that markets are shifting towards something he calls “Radical Transparency” as consumers demand much more information on the products they buy everyday. With advances in global information systems, and in the science of measuring product impacts through tools such as Life Cycle Assessment, the public is finally beginning to be able to access comprehensive information on the trade-offs inherent in their purchasing decisions.

Goleman asserts:

If we get better, more complete information about the true effects of an item at the moment we are deciding whether to buy it, we could make wiser decisions. Such full disclosure can make each of us an agent for small, gradual changes that, when multiplied by millions, will ripple through the industrial enterprise, from manufacturing and design, through supply chains and transport, to the distant ends of consumption.

In the New York Times earlier this week, Goleman and Greg Norris (one of GoodGuide’s advisors), published an op-art piece showing what this kind of transparency could tell you about your choice in bottles.

In the book, Goleman surveys a host of efforts to advance Ecological Intelligence, and he very generously concludes that:

“GoodGuide offers proof of concept, a concrete example of how radical transparency might work.”

While flattered, and very much aligned with this vision for providing the public much better information on products and companies, or own efforts to advance greater transparency are only just getting going. Fortunately, we are now part of a strong and growing ecosystem of organizations aligned for increased transparency and accountability in the marketplace. And more importantly, the public itself is driving this wave of interest in radical transparency.

Our job remains to listen to your needs and to get you better and better information to help you make decisions in your life. If Goleman is right, we will be busy for the coming decade!

If you want to learn more about the research behind the book, or to hear interviews delving into the issues covered in the book, including one with yours truly, check out the Ecological Awareness page at More Than Sound.

About Dara O'Rourke

Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
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16 Responses to Ecological Intelligence

  1. This is a refreshing twist on EQ. Ecological Intelligence… our natural environment is applauding.

    We will certainly share this with our readers… and raise our collective eco-IQ along the way.


  2. iKwanzaa says:

    Great info!

    Time to empower those we love!

  3. Donald Waddell says:

    I am glad to see Bill Moyer informing us of this book and its author. It fits my needs and those of my family. Please keep this information coming to us.

  4. Kanti Purohit says:

    I watched Mr. Goleman last night on Moyer’s Journal. I am very inspired by his ideas, especially how an individual can begin to make a difference by "spreading the word". And with technology, spreading the word is as easy tweeting!

    I am very suspicious "ratings" sites -either they are fake (put up by the vendor) or biased because of the sponsorships. I’ll give GoodGuide" and "SkinDeep" a chance 🙂

    BTW, the last night’s show led me to your site.

  5. google otto nathan who runs … world peace in five years partially thru consciencious consuming.

  6. Understanding ecological intelligence is vital for organizational development. Transparency will help organizations thrive. Thanks GoodGuide!

  7. Lori says:

    In terms of what I consider radical, radical transparency would require ecological intelligence to be intelligence more in the CIA sense than in the IQ sense…

    I’m just sayin’…

  8. j foss says:

    I’m in the middle of this book right now and it carries some incredibly powerful ideas for transforming our habits of consumption. I highly encourage anyone with a drive to make a difference to pick it up. Radical Transparency is spot on! I look forward to seeing GoodGuide evolve!

  9. Petrov says:

    The book sounds good. But it is a sad reflexion of our society of consumption that we must call something as plain as an honest contents label "radical transparency". Maybe this hyped-up term is necessary in order to get people to take notice…
    But by labeling paints and other household products with "ingredients", unless we are chemists – and even then! – we will not know the health effects, necessarily of a product. So "transparency" can only help a portion of consumers.
    GoodGuide can help. But we may need more "doctors" in the realms of building materials and commercial product toxicology …

  10. diego says:

    i’m reading goleman’s book and i discover there "good guide" thanks tointernet i found it…..

    read about it and evberything sounds good…. But reading what good guide ‘s goals are i tought:: ehi sounds good to collect aot of money from all that big industry that in future will pay to bein this green list…..

    In italy we say: isthe occasion that makes a man a thift" and hre we are talking about a huge amount of money (the perfect spot for a product … your bnk or credit card send u a message telling you what to buy.. the industry will pay millions to be part of that list coming to you from yoour bank or credit card….)

    who will controll the good guide controller????

    hope this well be with honesty cause milion and milion of persons in future could be involved in this…..

    P.S. sorry for my bad english but i’m italian…. bye all

  11. gdog says:

    The one good thing that came out of this book for me was this website. I thought most of the book was way over the heads of the average "eco-friendly wannabe"

  12. Evola123 says:

    I’m reading this book, so when I read about GoodGuide, I run here!

  13. poeticsistah says:

    Daniel Goleman is a great author , I have read his emotionally intelligence book and also I have seen his video about becoming emotionally intelligent! I look forward to reading this book!

  14. Reenie Rogers says:

    For me, Goleman provides many more viewpoints on my role as a consumer in today’s world. And it has already changed me, elevated my buying consciousness I suppose. For example, since reading EI, I have done research prior to purchasing a cell phone (my first one, so you know I’m a bit of a backward consumer). I was able to locate Environmental Working Group’s list of cell phones with least to most radiation, and based upon that, and upon my wish to use the phone primarily for last minute/emergency family events, I purchased a Trac phone. The store I purchased it had 3 different models of phones. I just checked out my EWG list and purchased the model closest to the top (safest) of the phone list. It takes willingness to research and tap into common sense (which Voltaire I believe said is not so common) as we reach out to buy. Time investment, research savvy, willingness to decide what’s important (for me it’s body health first, for others it might be price only, or quality only, or design, or environmental impacts, or sociological considerations). I do hope that whoever made the phone got a fair wage and works in a healthy environment. There are just so many considerations related to every single purchase. I’ve simplified my mental considerations prior to purchase by thinking first of biological (health) impacts.

    A great read and would make a fine book for reading groups to take up. We need to talk about these things in order to make changes. I give talks at the local health food store and garden circles etc. Each individual needs to pass it forward for the changes to occur before we have made ourselves and the planet sick by not being responsible for our consumption habits.

    Best to all!

  15. Great headline. If your cookie has a bite-sized action and your reader completes the action, I think two things happen. Their self-confidence goes up (which feels good) and their trust in you increases.

  16. For years, I have admired the smart insights and general intelligence of Daniel Coleman’s work. In fact, his book Emotional Intelligence, which was released near my daughter’s birth, is his seminal masterwork that I reread almost yearly. I have applied his work in my management practice, as well, reaching several of the largest firms in the world.

    But does Ecological Intelligence and Social Intelligence advance his argument, or simply repeat it in new settings? Having spent three decades in environmental and energy work, I find his ecological intelligence less rich in application than his first seminal Emotional Intelligence. A case in point: radical transparency is against human nature. Coleman and others know that we hide evidence in order to act, and that corporations do this even more than the average human. We see this not only in the great achievers like Tiger Woods, but more so in the great firms from GM to Ford and other leading firms in disrepair. So in short, the new concepts of radical transparency are hopeful and ideal, but not likely.

    If you wish to see some more practical explanations of transparency after the financianl meltdown please go to the money chapters at

    Coleman’s originating insight is that zeal, passion, and focus take one further in life than simple IQ. If you think about zeal, and understand passion, and then add to it the aggressive nature of keen focus, I do not think it will make more transparent companies let alone leaders. A challenging thought for a great subject, Dara. Yours, Bruce Piasecki

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