Consumer behaviour: Sweeten the sustainability pill
Corporate efforts to encourage more sustainable consumer behaviour should concentrate on making it easy for their customers to change
In 2010, consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble set itself an ambitious goal: by 2020, 70% of washing machine loads worldwide will be done in cold water. P&G’s big rival, Unilever, adopted a similar target, though it was formulated in a slightly different way. It said it would encourage consumers “to wash at lower temperatures and at the correct dosage in 70% of machine washes by 2020”.
Meeting these goals would result in a huge sustainability pay-off: energy savings and thus less burning of fossil fuels, and lower electricity bills for consumers. As the two companies own some of the world’s leading laundry brands – among them Ariel, Persil, Surf and Tide – the impact could be substantial.
But the goals have required a huge behavioural shift away from the notion that hot water is always better for getting clothes clean, and towards acceptance of a different way of doing things....