Don’t Let Good News Go Unnoticed

Best-selling author Dan Goleman explains how good news engages purpose-driven workers, and there’s plenty of good news around.

Daniel Goleman is author of the international best-seller Emotional Intelligence and of the forthcoming Optimal: How to Sustain Personal and Organizational Excellence Every Day. He is a regular contributor to Korn Ferry. 

News reporting is lopsided. We hear far too much about the horrors people create, and far too little about all of the good done daily.

This is particularly true in regard to climate change. For instance, over the past decade there has been a massive global effort to curb emissions, fueled in part by the millions of employees and shoppers who increasingly care about the environmental policies of the companies they work for or buy from. So even though many sectors are not on target to meet their environmental goals, a company whose genuine purpose includes acting to protect nature can secure the loyalty and business of those consumers who care – a proportion bound to increase as years go by.

The bad news?

Even this level of consumer demand has led to greenwashing: when a company or organization spends resources on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly rather than on minimizing their actual environmental impact. In the past five years, this practice has become rampant, with some reporting that more than 40% of corporate environmental claims are likely to be deceptive or false.

The good news?

Many consumers see through this ploy. One report revealed that around 50% of fashion consumers are skeptical of the sustainability or green claims made by clothing brands. Another study—done just last year—surveyed over 1,000 online consumers in the US and Europe to understand attitudes towards sustainability transparency. While more than 70% agreed that sustainability influences their purchasing decisions, a whopping 91% said they believe that some brands engage in deception.

When it comes to saving the planet from warming, it’s important to acknowledge the bad without ignoring what is going well. Psychologists call this positive reinforcement– the basic premise is that if we want to see good behaviors repeated, it’s important to acknowledge and reward them.

In this vein, another example of good news comes from Martine Postma, a journalist turned evangelist for sustainability and waste reduction. In 2009, Postma did a story on “Repair,” an art exhibit centered on the idea that repair is “underestimated as a creative, cultural and economic force.” The exhibit was supported by a manifesto opposing throwaway culture and positioning repair as the cool new addition to the world of recycling.

The exhibit was so inspiring that Postma went on to start the world’s first Repair Café in Amsterdam—a place where people could bring their broken items and learn how to resurrect them, rather than sending them to the dump. Shortly after, the Repair Café International Foundation was started to support groups in starting Repair Cafés of their own. Fifteen years later, there are more than 3,000 free-repair cafes around the globe – evidence of how one purposeful action can proliferate in order to create real change.

Yes, emissions are still far too high. But according to the energy think tank Ember, in 2024 a record 30% of worldwide electricity production came from solar, wind, and other renewables. When you add in the benefits of nuclear power, nearly 40% of global energy production came from non-carbon fuel sources last year.

While companies are slow to make real change, consumers are far more discerning, while people, in general, are increasingly motivated to take things into their own hands.

If we only focus on the bad, we run the risk of being so overwhelmed by anxiety that it becomes almost impossible to access creativity, hope, and the many other prerequisites it takes to solve complex problems.

Bad news keeps us centered on the problem. Good news lets us know what is working so we might do more of it. 

Co-written by Elizabeth Solomon


Click here to learn more about Daniel Goleman's Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence.