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Sustainable Consumption

Driving behaviour change in sustainable consumption

sustainable consumption

Sustainable consumption and switching consumers habits

There has seemingly never been a better time to launch a sustainable brand or offering. With Sustainability as the world’s hot topic, consumers are actively seeking out brands that are eco-friendly. However, a frustrating paradox remains where although 65% of people in a recent survey said they want to buy from brands that advocate sustainability, only 26% do.

So, what causes this gap?

If the effort required to switch consumers habits, outweighs their perceived benefits, then more often than not, habits won’t switch. So even if your intention is to be greener in the way you shop, the required effort puts people off. Reducing the intention action gap therefore requires less effort in switching habits for the consumer, and more reward when they do so.

The need to close consumers intention-action gap is hugely important in driving behavioural change in corporations too, it’s like a domino effect. For example, if everyone stopped buying plastic bottles of shower gel and started using soap, companies wouldn’t have the need or demand to produce the shower-gel in the first place. In fact, plastic bathroom products are recently new phenomena.

How do we close the intention-action gap?

  1. Customer Segmentation

Sustainability has only recently become a hot topic, and so naturally there are varying degrees of knowledge between consumers, and an overwhelm of information. Not only this, but consumers have different priorities and levels of commitment, so it’s hard to cooperate on a ‘one size fits all’ scale. Brands need to acknowledge and profile their different types of consumers with regards to sustainability, and act accordingly. Moreover, some consumers will care mostly about extrinsic motivators and find reward in being praised by others, for being seen to be sustainable. Whereas there will be other consumers who want to be green for intrinsic reasons and would be benefit from the reward of buying a sustainable product, purely because supporting the planet in this way makes them feel good. Corporations need to make sure they’re covering all basis in order to help close the intention-action gap.

  1. Increasing Rewards

Applying consumer segmentation will help varying responses across consumer behaviour be bought to light, for example, the varying degrees of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Brands need to consider how the benefits of their products are experienced by the customer and perhaps provide more benefits in areas they feel they are lacking. Some rewards may be immediate and personal such as: lower toxins in the ingredients or social credit (being seen buying or using a brand). Other rewards may be perceived as more distant such as buying a reusable water bottle allows for less plastic in the ocean. Climate activists, for example, would feel rewarded enough by something as distant as this, whereas other consumers who are less engaged, may only be persuaded to swap to green habits when there are more immediate rewards involved, that benefit them personally too.

  1. Decreasing effort

The last lever in which we can encourage sustainable consumption is to decrease the effort level for consumers. Habits are triggered by cues found in familiar contexts. For example, using disposable coffee cups may be a response to a cue such as it being the default cup provided by a barista. Companies can therefore use design features to eliminate these bad habits and swap them out for good ones, such as providing a free reusable cup through a loyalty scheme. The simplest and effective way to encourage sustainable behaviour is to make it the default option. For example, researchers in Germany discovered that when green electricity was set as default in residential buildings, 94% stuck with it.

Another barrier to sustainable consumption is the overwhelm of information. Your product may be using a certification to promote its sustainability, but do your consumers know what is meant by it? Decrease the effort levels for your consumers by providing them with all the information they need about why your products are sustainable and how purchasing them, makes for a positive impact on the planet.

With these three little tweaks, your brand can help encourage sustainable consumption and close the intention-action gap that is evident. Let us know about your sustainable brand, we’d love to feature you on our resource page!

At eco-shaper, we drive action on climate change and streamline carbon footprinting. For example, we can help calculate emissions across the entire ecosystem that companies work across and produce automated reporting based on outcomes. It’s like Xero, for sustainability. Contact us to be part of our research group on



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