Nudging: A tool for sustainable behaviour
Sometimes, a gentle nudge is all it takes for us to do the right thing. With a report written by three IIIEE researchers, nudging as a behavioural tool has gained interest among a broad Swedish audience.
Most of us wish to make sustainable choices and do well for ourselves as well as for society. Yet, we fail, over and over again. Sometimes though, a gentle nudge is all it takes for us to change our behaviour and become more sustainable consumers.
Nudging is also the name of a behavioural economics tool recently brought to the attention of policy makers and academics. It can be used to enable behaviours and private decisions that are good for individuals and often for society as well.
Together with her IIIEE colleagues Matthias Lehner and Eva Heiskanen, Oksana Mont has written the first Swedish report on nudging. The report was commissioned and funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the study has served as a direct input to advancing strategic work on sustainable consumption policies.
– Nudging can be described as a method that aims to shape our routine decisions, choices or behaviour without actively changing our values. We know that almost half of our daily decisions and actions are based on habits and routines, which we barely reflect upon, says Oksana Mont, professor at the IIIEE.
Oksana Mont holds the default choice as the nudge with the strongest potential to change behaviours.
– Changing the default choice in a sustainable direction has proven very effective, she says. When an American energy company made green energy their offered default choice, more than 95 per cent of the customers chose accordingly. Opting out of this default required an active choice and only around five per cent of the customers chose not to buy green energy, she says.
Displaying fruit instead of candy close to the cashier in shops, using smaller plates at the restaurant buffet to reduce food waste and lowering car speed in residential areas with small street bumps are other examples of nudging that have proved to be effective.
The nudging report was also presented to the minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs Per Bolund and representatives of financial sector in March 2015. Inspired by the report, the Nordic Council of Ministers has come out with a a research call in order to advance their knowledge on how to apply nudging as a tool for shaping consumer behaviour in relation to the reuse and recycling of small electronic devices such as mobile phones.
Text and photo: Sara Bernstrup Nilsson
Nudging - a tool for sustainable behaviour
Related reading on IIIEE research