Motivating Sustainable Consumer Choices: The Role of Nudges, Values, and Labels –  Erb Faculty Director, Joe Arvai published in Environment and Behavior

Small, everyday changes in people’s behavior can have significant positive environmental impacts. Research conducted by Victoria Campbell-Árvai and Joe Árvai focused on the role of nudges (i.e., asymmetric behavioral interventions) in motivating consumers’ to choose products that would lead to positive environmental outcomes. One of the settings for this research was motivating proenvironmental food choices in cafeterias. An experiment was devised wherein a default menu, presenting either appetizing or unappetizing sustainable meal options was compared with more conventional menu configurations.

Campell-Árvai and Árvai found that the use of a nudge increased the probability that consumers would choose a sustainable food option. Neither the provision of information—i.e., labeling on the menus—encouraging consumers to consider the importance of sustainable food choices, nor the pro-environmental value orientation and worldview of consumers, affected their choices. Most interestingly, the nudge encouraged consumers to select with greater probability both appetizing and unappetizing sustainable meal options, even though the former were relatively more popular. These results suggest that default-based interventions can be important tools in motivating sustainable consumer choices, which may complement labeling and and consumer education efforts over the long term.

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