This experiment shows us what the popular rise of organic foods also demonstrates: people are prepared to pay more to help others. We are almost all willing to pay a little bit more, as long as we are able, to make sure the person on the other hand has enough to survive.
This “urge” to have things play out fair is actually shared among primates. We evolved to benefit our mutual survival, helping each other in health so that we may one day receive this same help back. In chimpanzee societies, the more dominant chimps are those who can give the most. People want a chance to prove their value through their ability to give, and companies exploit this ruthlessly through targeted greenwashing.
One particularly evidence example is the use of “natural” marketing, which has no real definition or meaning. Despite costs being low, corporate profits are up. The reason for this is their ability to externalize both environmental and social costs: they make society and nature pay for the cheap price of the product.
We need to pay attention, and think about, where our stuff comes from. If you can’t find out the answer for something you are using, there’s maybe a “good” reason that the answer is hard to find. Get involved, write/call and try to find out if the information isn’t public, and call attention to things that seem too good to be true. Conscious consumerism is probably the first step towards sustainable living, which will also ironically require us to downplay consumption.