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Peer Pressure: Consumers’ Great Green Motivator
        Peer pressure may be able to accomplish what financial incentives, fear, guilt, and education have not: drive widespread adoption of environmentally friendly behaviors.

       Recent experiments show that telling consumers what their neighbors are doing to reduce energy consumption compels them to cut their own usage. For example, one utility’s customers were divided into four groups that each received different rationale for saving energy: for the planet, for future generations, to save money, or because their neighbors were cutting back. Only the last group changed behavior. On average, they reduced their energy consumption by 10%. Results were similar with a home weatherizing program. Researchers told consumers their neighbors had signed up for comprehensive weatherization, and convinced 90% of homeowners in a neighborhood to participate.

       Researchers say that consumers respond to information about their peers' green behaviors for three reasons. First, it sets a bar. Most Americans have no idea how much energy is “appropriate” to use. Second, it brings out consumers’ competitive spirit. They want to win by being the one who cuts consumption the most. Finally, it taps into good old peer pressure. Nobody wants to be the loner not joining the group.

       These findings can help us bridge the gulf between green attitudes---the vast majority of Americans think we should all be living more sustainably---and green behaviors---where most consumers admit they fall short.

We should think about...
  • How can we use peer pressure to incent our customers and consumers to live more sustainably?
  • How can we create friendly competition within our organization to drive adoption of more green behaviors?
Sources: Christian Science Monitor 2009; Wall Street Journal 2009;
Yale Environment 360 2009
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