Environmentalists are enjoying success at the moment. After several decades of campaigning, environmental issues are now mainstream and at the top of the agenda for many politicians and business people. Indeed, only yesterday Google announced it was “going green”.

Human beings have a tendency to get “swept along”; we have an inbuilt desire to “go with the crowd”. On the whole, we find it difficult to “be different”. It all relates to a basic piece of psychology about group membership. You are either “in group” or “out group”. We find it very difficult and threatening if we are outside the group, in whatever situation.

So, as more an more people join the “green group” it is difficult for the non-greens to stay that way. They feel immense psychological pressure to join in. It was a similar situation last week when the London 2012 Olympic organisation launched its logo. It’s innovative and youthful design started to attract criticism; now it is difficult to find anyone who thinks it is great. They are definitely “out group” which is an uncomfortable place to be. So even though people may secretly like the logo, they say it is dreadful just to stay “in group”. For the environmental lobby much the same is happening; people are claiming to “be green” just to appear as members of the main group.

This has considerable implications for anyone running an online business. You need to show you are “in group” in order to connect with as many people as possible. Of course, using computers and encouraging people across the world to use computers is not particularly green considering the amount of electricity, plastics and so on they need. However, as Google has shown us going green attracts headlines.

The latest issue of the Trendwatching newsletter suggests that green issues are an essential component in business success over the coming years. So, even if you think global warming is some trumped up charge, even if you cannot actually “go green” with your business very much, even if you only sell ebooks, you need to show you are going green in some way. Otherwise your business will be “out group” and that means you will be excluded by more and more customers. Going green might make environmental sensse; equally it might not. Scientists in 1,000 years time may look back at the discussions now and equate it to people telling Columbus the Earth was flat. However, from a business perspective if you do not “go green” and pretty quick, you will lose business as people psychologically place you outside the “group”.

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