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Nudging: A tool for sustainable behaviour?
202100-1975.
Responsible organisation
2014 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Success of strategies for solving problems of climate change, scarce resources and negative environmental impacts increasingly depends on whether changes in individual behaviour can and will supplement the technical solutions available to date.A relatively new way to influence behavior in a sustainable direction without changing values of people is nudging. Nudging can be used to help people make choices that are better for the environment or their health. The importance of the behaviour change strategies is being recognised in politics and among policy makers in diverse areas – from road safety to diet and physical activity; from pension plans to private economy and from littering to recycling. A renewed perspective on existing policy tools and potential strategies for behaviour change are entering public debate that have implications for behaviour of individuals, but that also raise critical questions about the role of the government in the society and transition to sustainability. Nudge means carefully guiding people behavior in desirable direction without using either carrot or whip. Instead when nudging one arranges the choice situation in a way that makes desirable outcome the easiest or the most attractive option. Knowledge about nudging opens up possibility to suggest new types of policy tools and measure that can contribute to sustainable consumption.In many countries, public or private knowledge centers are engaged in shaping nudging strategies and policy development. The report provides an international outlook with experiences from the USA, the UK, EU, Norway and Denmark. In the USA, nudging was institutionalised at the Office of Regulatory Affairs which develops and oversees the implementation of government-wide policies and reviews draft regulations in several areas. In the UK, nudge was firmly institutionalised when the Behavioural Insights Team (UK BIT) was established at the UK Cabinet Office in 2010. In February 2014, the team was ‘spun out’ of government and set up as a social purpose company but is still working primarily for the Cabinet Office. Instead of establishing a governmental unit, Denmark has an active non-profit organisation iNudgeYou outside the government that supports the use of nudges in policy making. Similarly to Denmark, Norway has an independent organisation promoting and supporting the use of nudges, GreeNudge, which has produced a report on the potential for nudging in Norway’s climate policy.The guiding question is whether it is possible to help individuals make better decisions for themselves and society at large by overcoming limitations of human cognitive capacity and behavioural biases? In what way can behavioural sciences help people bridge the gap between good intentions and good deeds? Can learnings from nudge examples be used to shape behaviour in a more sustainable direction? In order to answer these questions, the report:• analyses existing academic knowledge on nudging and choice architecture• investigates lessons about effectiveness and efficiency of applied nudging tools and approaches in consumption domains of energy use in the home, food and mobility• presents evidence of factors of success of different nudge-based approaches• outlines the implications of these findings for policy strategies on sustainable consumptionThe report shows that lately applications of behavioural sciences and behavioural economics, such as nudge, have been helping policy makers in different countries and sectors to more systematically integrate behavioural insights into policy design and implementation. Some examples of these tools are:• Use default options in situations with complex information, e.g. pension funds or financial services• Simplify and frame complex information making key information more salient – energy labelling, displays• Make changes in the physical environment making preferable options more convenient for people – e.g. change layouts and functions, showing with steps and signs, give remainders and warnings of different kinds to individuals• Use of social norms – provide information about what others are doingHowever, the size of the effects of policy interventions and the actual outcomes of interventions in specific contexts remain hard to measure. Results from one experiment cannot be indiscriminately generalised to a different context or to a wider population. The problem is the complexity of human behaviour and the diversity of factors that influence it.Despite that, nudging is a useful strategy for inducing changes in contextspecific behaviour. Rather than being seen as a silver bullet, the largest promise of nudge is perhaps in helping design other initiatives better and in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of policy tools and the speed of their implementation. Nudge is a cost effective instrument that can enhance other policy tools and that targets behaviours not addressed by other policy instruments because the behaviours are based on automatic, intuitive and non-deliberative thinking.Nudging promotes a more empirical approach to policy design and evaluation, e.g. through experiments, pilots and random control trials, than the tools usually applied in policy making and ex-ante evaluation. Nudge tools are seen as a complement to the traditional policy instruments rather than as a substitute for laws and regulations and economic tools. Nudging in general and green nudges in particular are interesting tools that can be used alongside other instruments for behaviour change, but more research is needed on their effectiveness and efficiency, as well as on their theoretical underpinnings and practical applications in consumption-relevant domains.The report is written for policy makers, civil servants and representatives of the public, interested in behaviour change methods and the role of the government in shaping and facilitating the change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Naturvårdsverket, 2014. , p. 83
Series
Rapport / Naturvårdsverket, ISSN 0282-7298 ; 6643
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:naturvardsverket:diva-9173ISBN: 978-91-620-6643-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:naturvardsverket-9173DiVA, id: diva2:1610786
Available from: 2021-11-11 Created: 2021-11-11 Last updated: 2021-11-11Bibliographically approved

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