Why behavioural insights matter
A considerable fraction of greenhouse gas emissions results from the choices we make when we eat, go to work, choose a washing machine, turn on air conditioning, or go on vacation.
Some of these decisions require thought and deliberation, while others are repetitive and automatic. Many decisions we make can affect the environment more broadly. Thus, we implicitly contribute to biodiversity loss, deteriorating ecosystems, or pollution.
Behavioural sciences can provide important insights on the underlying drivers of behaviours that impact our environment and suggest adequate ways to influence them. For instance
- We not only take our personal benefits into account, we also care for others and the environment.
- While we often say we want to be aware of the environmental impact of our actions, we often fail to act on our intentions.
- We often engage in eco-friendly action to signal to ourselves and others that we are good people.
- Many environmentally relevant decisions, such as what type of transport to take or whether to recycle waste, are influenced by how the options are presented.
Introducing behavioural insights into environmental and climate policies can benefit our environment and help protect our climate.
How behavioural insights can help
Behaviourally informed environmental and climate policies aim to help Europeans make greener choices. For instance:
- Car CO2 emissions
The EU’s car labelling directive requires carmakers to give consumers information at point of sale to help them buy fuel-efficient cars. For example labels, posters, displays, guides, promotional literature, etc. with details of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
The directive was supported by a behavioural study (PDF).
- Product durability and reparability
The implementation of the circular economy action plan (PDF), one of the main blocks of the European Green Deal, is based partly on a behavioural study.
The study investigates how best to present information on products’ durability and reparability, to shift purchasing decisions towards more sustainable choices.
- Consumer testing of alternatives for communicating the Environmental Footprint profile of products (Directorate-General for Environment, 2019)
- Behavioural factors affecting the adoption of sustainable farming practices: a policy-oriented review (European Review of Agricultural Economics, 2019)
- Assessment of different communication vehicles for providing environmental footprint information (DG Environment, 2018)
- Behavioural study on consumers’ engagement in the circular economy (Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, 2018)
- The influence of durability and reparability information – Part II, Section 6 (Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, 2017)
Resources, news and more relevant to this Topic:
When we go to work or school, especially if we live in an urban area, we can often choose between different modes of transport...
As consumers, we can choose more or less sustainable products. For instance, we may select a washing machine that will last a long time...