This three part series break’s down Cogo’s white paper on our ‘Ethical Nudge Framework’ (ENF) into three easy to understand, quick-to-read blog posts. Learn why we’re taking a behaviourally informed approach to drive climate action; the skinny on how our ENF works; and the power of collective action.
Intuitively, you and I understand that solving climate change will require mass action by individuals, companies and Governments if we’re going to move the needle in the right direction (specifically, not more than 1.5 degrees celsius upwards which the IPCC report is predicting the world will probably reach or exceed!). Simply put: we’re going to have to change what we do. Climate action, not offsetting, is how we’re going to solve the climate crisis.
If we look at just one industry such as fashion, which is a massive contributor to pollution and global carbon emissions, yet synthetic fibres (mainly polyester, i.e. plastic) STILL account for the bulk of our fashion choices (69%). Individual waste and pollution is also an issue. British households create over 26m tonnes of waste each year; while the average New Zealand household STILL uses 941 plastic containers or bottles per year and households are the largest contributor to the country’s carbon footprint (71 percent).
Unfortunately, what we KNOW hasn’t yet changed what we DO. Something we often hear at Cogo is 'I want to take action, but it's hard to know what action to take'. 79% of Kiwis, for instance, find it hard to tell which products are good or bad ethically or sustainably. If only behaviour change was as simple as making a one-off decision which flicks an internal switch on deeply ingrained habits. If it was, we’d all eat less sugar and exercise three times a week (if only!).
At Cogo, we believe that the climate crisis (like many things in life) comes down to behaviour; and that if we can change behaviour, we’ll shift the dial. We’re using tech to harness the power of behavioural science in order to help people move beyond just understanding the problem (we all know about the climate crisis) to taking meaningful climate action (i.e. doing something about it.) which we’re all keen to do.
What is behavioural science?
The field of behavioural science isn’t new. For decades people have been studying how people behave in a complex world and identifying evidence-based strategies that can lead to changes in these behaviours. It draws on research integrating disciplines such as psychology, economics, neuroscience and sociology to help understand our real-life decision making process and actions.
Are things really that complex?
Conventional wisdom assumes that people make rational choices by weighing up costs and benefits. Behavioural science, however, shows most of our decisions are unconscious and influenced by far more - including our emotions, physical and social context, mental shortcuts and heuristics. Incredibly, there are over 200 biases and mental shortcuts that we rely on when making decisions.
Mind the gap
As we know, the scale of the climate crisis is so huge and systemic that it's easy to feel powerless. Not surprisingly, research has found that people report being aware of issues such as global warming, however their attempts at positive behaviour change, such as limiting energy consumption and recycling, often fail or go in the ‘too hard’ basket, which none of us wants.
What’s more, when people’s values, intentions or attitudes aren’t consistent with their actions, this creates a value-action gap. That value-action gap highlights that people don’t struggle with understanding the urgency of climate action; but rather find it hard to take the steps they need to take to make a difference and overall follow through.
We're sure everyone can relate to these barriers in their everyday lives, from deciding where to go for dinner to choosing a new, more sustainable power provider:
For example, we’re often stuck in our ways around the brands we purchase, where we shop for our food and clothes and how we commute to work.
For example, leaving lights on when leaving a room has no immediate or visible cost and it’s easy to underestimate the positive consequences of putting an end to this habit in favour of what’s easy.
We tend to do what others do or think we should do - such as commuting by car rather than bus in a community that views the car we drive as a status symbol.
Tech-enabled behaviour change
This is why an emerging focus on solutions and tech tools that harness behavioural science and help us take easy, tangible and active steps to improve our carbon footprint is so important. They will help move all of us from “I know why I need to change…” to “I also know HOW - this is the direction I’ve been looking for!”
We've been working in the consumer behaviour and sustainability space for over 10 years and have gained a deep insight into what drives positive change. The result of these learnings is a stepped process that supports meaningful change towards a more sustainable lifestyle (our ENF).
We’re using behavioural science and the power of tech to enable hundreds of millions of consumers globally to understand the effects their spending has on their carbon footprint and take actions to reduce their impact.
What to read next:
Measuring and reporting carbon emissions is crucial for businesses. In fact, it is the first and most important step in taking climate action. So how is it done? First, you need to classify your business's scope emissions. What’s that? Keep reading to find out.
People often feel like they’re powerless against something as big and as important as climate change; but what they really are is POWERFUL - very powerful, infact. They just need a bit of guidance to tap into this power.