Policymakers must consider behaviour - report

Environmental policies based on the provision of extra information like energy labelling may need to be re-examined and the complex and sometimes irrational ways people make decisions taken into account in wider policymaking, says a report.

The consultancy report conducted by Germany-based Ecologic Institute for the European Commission's environment department summarises recent research on consumer behaviour, most of which has been done in the UK.

It shows decisions are affected by a range of factors, including the behaviour of other people in the same social group, the timeliness of any advice received, and whether any costs and benefits will be felt immediately. Off-putting information may well be ignored, as can anything that makes a decision more complex.

The report suggests possible policies including giving householders more information on average energy spending in their area, providing product life-cycle data at purchasing-decision points, and changing the default settings on, for instances, showers and in the amount of meat offered by school canteens.

People’s behaviour can also be affected by changes in the infrastructure around them that, for instance, prioritise cycling over car use, changes in their workplace, and marketing of greener lifestyles, says the report. However, the complexity of behaviour change means this kind of policy should be piloted to check its effectiveness.


Excerpted from ENDS Europe Daily