Policy makers all over the world increasingly choose nudges from the toolbox to combat challenges of society including public health and the environment. However, when we embrace nudges we should not only consider their benefits for society. We should also ask: Do people approve of using them, and why?
Nudges cover different interventions that steer people in certain directions. They can be everything from warnings on tobacco products to defaults for green energy. What is important: A nudge always allows people to choose themselves – and to opt out of a default. The approval of nudges is the focus of my new article written with co-authors Cass Sunstein and Micha Kaiser, recently published in the Journal of European Public Policy. Our analysis draws on an international survey from five countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, South Korea and the US. We asked a representative group of people in these countries if they approve of 15 widely used health and environmental nudges. We also checked for a long list of socio-economic, psychological, and social variable – including their trust in public institutions.
Most people do
A high level of support for nudges exists across countries and cultures. This is what we had found in earlier studies in about 25 countries worldwide. Yet differences in attitude show up across various beliefs, traits, and behaviours. Women and people with marked environmental concern are most likely to approve. At the same time, conservatives are less likely to do so. We see the force of behaviour when, for instance, a “meat-free Monday” in a cafeteria is less well supported by meat-eaters. Interestingly, this also applies to smokers who tend to disapprove of government anti-smoking campaigns.
Trust is a must
While our analysis points to several findings, one might outshine the others. Approval comes with trust. To be more specific, we find the trust in public institutions strongly connected with social approval. In other words, when people have high trust in, e.g., government or police, they are likely to be supportive towards nudges. As expected, those who strongly believe in the free market to solve challenges of society will be less in favour.
Openness and transparency
The finding of trust gives a very important lesson. We should make sure to cultivate trust in arguing for nudges. Even though most people already approve of nudges, policy makers should not rest on their laurels but rather engage citizens in the development of new policies and ways of assessing their cost-effectiveness and acceptance. The best way to obtain trust is to earn it, and to invite citizens to participate. This is why we propose a “bill of rights for nudging” that sketches out the rules a government should follow when using nudging as a policy tool. Transparent rules and processes tend to create trust in institutions.
Lucia A. Reisch is Full Professor for Consumer Behaviour and Consumer Policy at Copenhagen Business School.
Cass R. Sunstein, Lucia A. Reisch & Micha Kaiser (2018): Trusting nudges? Lessons from an international survey, Journal of European Public Policy, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2018.1531912
Bring sustainability into the business school mainstream by aligning with schools’ existing practices: technical, political, and cultural.
Sustainable business has been taught and researched in business schools for decades. For nearly as long, proponents have warned about barriers to genuine integration of sustainability in business schools.
Sustainability Centres in Business Schools
In a recent article, we and our co-authors Sareh Pouryousefi and Ethan Schoolman looked at the role of sustainability centres in achieving this fit. Our analysis drew on a survey of directors of sustainability centres and interviews with ten of these centre directors. We found that leading sustainability centres seek to achieve three types of fit between their own practices and those of their business schools, in order to promote integration.
The types of fit are:
Technical. Centres achieve technical fit — i.e. alignment with existing organisational structures- by ensuring that sustainability topics are taught in a mix of core and elective programmes in different disciplines.
Political. Centres achieve strong political fit by aligning with the interests of school leaders in order to develop sustainability practices as a brand for the school.
Cultural. Centres achieve cultural fit — i.e. alignment with the cultural values of the wider organisation — somewhat counterintuitively. They do it by not defining terms such as ‘sustainability’ or setting fixed boundaries around their work; instead, they interpret research themes loosely to include colleagues with related research interests.
A centre may pursue one kind of fit, but because these types of fit are highly interrelated, actions in one area (technical, cultural, political) will affect the others.
On the one hand, they can positively reinforce each other towards better integration. The existence of cultural and technical fit will encourage collaboration. The presence of cultural and political fit will boost legitimacy. Political and technical fit will strengthen resources devoted to sustainability.
The challenge of fit
Centres that manage to achieve higher levels of fit across domains feel more secure about the long-term prospects of their centre. None of the centre representatives we spoke to felt that they had a complete alignment in all three areas of fit. But centres saw benefits when they had a good degree of fit in two or more areas, or were working towards fit in multiple areas. In these cases, directors felt that their centres’ purpose transcended the individuals associated with them, guarding them against future political headwinds, such as lack of interest from senior management.
Barriers to fit remain even at leading schools. This is because sustainability centres usually present some challenge to assumptions of others at business schools — often including Deans.
Our research shows that lack of fit in one domain may also impact the other domains. For example, a centre might have a high level of political fit through support from the Dean, but low cultural fit because it tightly defines sustainability in contrast with wider business school values. That centre may also struggle to achieve high levels of technical fit.
These elements are important even for sustainability centres that purposefully avoid integration with those wider business school practices which they deem wholly antithetical to sustainability. These centres can still attend to issues of political, technical and cultural fit as they choose strategies for carrying out their teaching, research, and engagement activities.
Rieneke Slager is Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen. Jeremy Moon is Velux Professor of Corporate Responsibility at Copenhagen Business School.
This entry is not one of the usual kind. Rather you will find thoughts about this blog as such, its motivation, relevance, and a recap of articles posted in the last few months.
A researcher-blog is a particular thing, the description itself, researcher blog, appears contradictive in the first place. Typically, the researcher’s publishing realm are journals, contributions to textbooks or own publications. Whereas a weblog is typically loosely written, open for ex post published critique and comments, a researcher publication is as clear and precise in language as possible, and peer-reviewed before the print or upload. Scientific papers rarely feature colourful pictures to draw attention, and they always exceed 500 words. Blogs are often about opinions on certain topics, provoke, deal with actual events or contemplate issues; a paper ideally generates insight, knowledge and facts, only as far as possible.
We think it does. Not only are we convinced that sustainability and the responsibility of business and society for a more sustainable future are of concern to everyone but we also believe that related topics and discussions from around and beyond CBS should get out fast to a broad audience, that is, via online publishing. The blog is not only aimed at the ones in the office next door, who might not yet know who is doing research on what, our department, other departments, other universities, in Denmark and abroad. We are also targeting students, practitioners, politicians, friends, family – basically everyone who is concerned with sustainability in some way.
The contributors span from big names in the field to not-yet-well-known PhDs, (visiting) professors, fellows, students, colleagues from other institutions, and guest contributors. We seek diversity on the blog, as sustainability is not one clearly defined ‘thing’. It is related to all kinds of fields and while the term itself stems from forestry, the contested expression is now informing environmental sciences, politics, economics and business; theory and practise; professional and private lives. What do you buy, how do we (want to) live, how about our children?
The Business of Society (BOS) blog is meant to expand every reader’s horizon and to engage you in critical thinking and discussion. Providing short entries in accessible language does not imply a lower relevance of the articles. Rather, it means that the proverbial, non-academic ‘grandmother’ can understand what is at stake and participate in a discussion. Having scientific thought from many different researchers in condensed form is also a source of inspiration for students or and soon-to-be PhDs. Following, a few selected articles are presented to give you a taste of this blog’s spirit and the people behind the articles.
From the Business of Society archive
Jan Bauer is associate professor at CBS and part of the Governing Responsible Business (GRB) Research Environment. He is doing research in the fields of health economics and consumer behaviour. In June, he contributed to this blog with an article about a sustainable food policy trial, here at the MSC department at CBS. A new choice architecture in regard to the food policy at the department reveals the power of defaults. However, Jan also emphasises the importance of the foundation of guiding principles in such nudging approaches. What is the best way to decide upon a new policy, scientific evidence or democratic process? Follow the link above to get a more comprehensive image of the nudge-experiment and its related issues.
Climate change solutions must naturally consist in a collective effort of different parties: various fields of research, politics, business; technology are often seen as candidates to deliver the solution(s) from a supply side, among others when it comes to decarbonisation. Yet, the demand side must not be overlooked either, knows Kristian Steensen Nielsen, PhD fellow in environmental behaviour change at CBS. In his article in July, he writes about a framework for assessing the potential of behaviour change for global decarbonisation, suggesting that demand-side behaviour change can offer a solution for long-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Pointing the fingers at others is easy. But before blaming somebody else, it is sometimes a good idea to look at one’s own backyard. To some people, the Chinese Social Credit system seems to be an idea stemming from 20th century dystopia literature and deserves critique. The Western backyard here would be what tech-industry giants and governments do with the (private) data, and how citizens think and (don’t) act about it. Dieter Zinnbauer and Hans Krause Hansen wrote a brilliant piece on the big fuss about a big policy plan. It is a bit longer but worth the time.
Is the cake really getting bigger? Sharing economy is such an omnipresent phenomenon and buzzword that few people ask what is behind it. Fact is, people have been sharing ever since they lived in communities. It can also be taken for granted that Airbnb and the like neither (re-)invented the sharing-concept, nor act upon non-profit or redistributive beliefs. Attila Marton, from our neighbouring department of digitalization at CBS, depicts in his article generic types of sharing economy platforms and why it is rather a not-so-sharing economy in the case of large-scale business models.
Granting the BOS readers a first taste of his upcoming book, Stefano Ponte from the Business and Politics department at CBS contributed an article based upon ‘just sustainabilities’ in a world of global value chains. Living in the Anthropocene (or, the capitaloscene??), humanity has to take care of how much more it changes the planet’s surface and ecosystems. The problem of global governance has to be tackled from all possible sides, business large and small, politics local and global; yet business of sustainability is not sufficient as a solution for, among others, climate change. What to do? Read yourself.
A common critique towards environmentalist researchers, politicians and activists is the fact that they -if only for the greater good- behave environmentally debatable themselves, such as short trips to conferences involving air travel, the excessive use of resources at conferences (e.g. paper, i.e. info flyers, posters; plastic bottles, one-time coffee mugs).
Being in charge of organizing a Sustainable Consumption conference at CBS, Louise Thomsen, project manager for CBS PRME and the VELUX Chair, asked how this conference, and events at CBS in general, can be made more sustainable. In her guest post, she contemplates the issue of making events more sustainable and presents the actual measures taken. Just one example: in cooperation with a student group from DTU, a life cycle analysis was done to guide decisions in terms of water supply. Check out the whole article about raising the bar for sustainable events.
As this selection of recent posts shows, BOS is a platform for diverse and rich sustainability discourses, starting here at CBS and extending to topics of global reach and relevance. Supply chains, politics, sharing, consumption behaviour, ethics, business responsibility, the SDGs, the next conference you’ll be attending, all these issues belong here. If you would like to contribute to the BOS blog of meet for a coffee and chat, write a mail email@example.com.
How often do we as event coordinators ask ourselves: how can I minimize the plastic use, the waste, the paper? I could also reverse the question and ask: Could we imagine a smarter, more efficient and even more inspiring new way to host events?
We all know exactly what to expect when attending a conference. You receive a name tag when you register, which you usually throw in the waste bin when you leave. You get a plastic bottle of water, and when you are done with that, or even before you are done, you get another one. You get the conference programme and the participant list which you look at a couple of times before that goes into the waste bin. Often printed in colour.
Now, imagine attending a conference with no plastic bottles, no paper, no meat, and no food waste. Imagine, how this conference would increase the level of awareness, communication and engagement between the participants and the hosts. And ignite fruitful discussions because we would realize, how much we can actually achieve with little changes in our everyday lives.
In order to make sure that the sustainability initiatives implemented at the conference were the most sustainable solutions and had a high impact factor, the conference organizers allied themselves with a group of students from the Danish Technical University (DTU) who were doing a course on Life Cycle Assessments.
The students received 2 cases
How should the conference supply water?
How should the conference be catered?
Over the course of 4 months, the DTU student teams collected data from CBS and carried out life cycle assessments taking into account various impact factors such as production, transportation, use and disposal etc. Based on the results, all conference meals were vegetarian, and all conference participants received one glass bottle that could be filled from water dispensers throughout the entire conference.
The conference participants also received information about the sustainability initiatives that they could expect prior to the conference. The findings from the life cycle assessment were communicated on posters and on the back of the staff t-shirts. All conference staff engaged with the participants and assisted with water bottles and waste sorting. Furthermore, the conference participants were continuously encouraged to share feedback and discuss the attempts made with each other and the staff.
Implemented sustainability initiatives at the Sustainable Consumption Conference
Each conference participant received one reusable glass bottle, which replaced single-use plastic bottles for the distribution of water throughout the conference.
Every meal served at the conference was vegetarian, reducing the environmental impact of the conference’s catering by 44% compared to meat-based meals.
Participants were asked to sort their waste throughout the conference, using designated bins for paper, plastic, food, and general waste.
The conference was largely paperless. Programs and other general information were made available in ways that reduced the need for paper, such as printed posters and an app with, among other information, the timetable.
The lanyards for name tags were made from recycled polyester, and both name tags and lanyards were collected for reuse after the conference.
Food waste was minimized by asking participants to give notice in advance about which meals they were going to participate in, and any leftover food was brought to a nearby centre for homeless people.
All conference staff wore a sustainable and organic cotton t-shirt with key sustainability messages on the back.
Invitation to a learning journey
When hosting an event at CBS, you are in touch with many different stakeholders who have procedures on how to efficiently meet requests on catering, waste handling, or cleaning. This means that it must be a collaborative effort if you want to change the existing structures. Engagement and communication are key.
We should not get carried away by the belief that the easiest solutions to implement will necessarily be the most impactful or more environmentally significant than our starting point. There is a big difference between solutions that carry a high degree of reducing CO2-emissions (real impact), and solutions that have the purpose of creating awareness. Both aspects are highly important. However, we should be aware of when we spend resources on one or the other and communicate this clearly.
I want to invite you to think about how we can improve our ecological footprint when we host events at CBS and elsewhere. As you will soon learn, there is no such thing as a “sustainable event”. However, there are well-founded decisions and much to learn if we dare to ask the question:
How can we raise the bar for sustainable events?
Louise Thomsen is Project Manager for CBS PRME and the VELUX Chair in Corporate Sustainability at the Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS. Louise is focused on implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in an university context through student engagement. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Save the date: 29 August, 15 h, Dalgas Have, Copenhagen Business School.
Creating a whole conference to have a significantly reduced amount of waste, use of paper and plastics is a big challenge. But many people also wonder, what they can do as individuals to limit climate change, if there is anything at all. This issue is treated in another edition of the Sustainability Seminar Series at the department of Management, Society and Communication at CBS.
While the recent US ’opioid crisis’ has beenwidelyreported, a second, less recognized, crisis related to opioids has been taking place, and is still ongoing, more quietly in countries with less Western media visibility. Whereas the crisis in the US is arguably related to an over-subscription to opioid-based pain relief, such as OxyContin, the second crisis could rather be seen as a case of too tightly regulated access to opioids in health-care systems. This is at least the argument of a recent report commissioned by The Lancet which proclaims that the world is experiencing an under-management of pain where as many as 25 million people are suffering partly as a result of regulatory and cultural approaches to the use of opioids.
Severe lack of access
The report was the result of a three-year study on the integration and access of pain relief and palliative care in health systems. It opens with a succinct description of the problem: “Poor people in all parts of the world live and die with little or no palliative care or pain relief. Staring into this access abyss, one sees the depth of extreme suffering in the cruel face of poverty and inequity” (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 1).
Those suffering from lack of access to adequate medication are predominantly found in low-income and middle-income countries, often with terminal illnesses, and includes approximately 2.5 million children dying with, what the report terms, ‘serious health-related suffering’ each year (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 2). Of the almost 300 metric tons of morphine-equivalent opioids distributed annually, only 0.1 metric tons reach health systems in low-income countries. This is something the report’s authors condemn as: “a medical, public health, and moral failing and a travesty of justice” (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 1).
Addiction and pain relief
But what are the reasons for this state of potentially unnecessary suffering? In contrast to many other debates on access to medication, the problem is in this case not predominantly related to questions of scarcity, costs, or tightly enforced intellectual property rights to drugs, but rather a mix of cultural and regulatory factors. There are (at least) two factors that explain the pattern: One is a lack of visibility due to fragmented patient advocacy and exclusion of pain alleviation from standard measures of health. Another key factor is that opioids do not only fall under the scope of medical regulation but are also controlled substances under international drug conventions (Ibid.).
As substances such as morphine are listed and regulated as narcotic substances by the UN, they become part of a machinery of international checks and balances on their flow, including import quotas and reporting requirements. The UN treaties are based on two imperatives, on the one hand the limitation of harmful and addictive substances, and on the other hand to secure access to medically vital analgesics. In recent decades, the war on a drugs-compatible first imperative of strict control has become increasingly dominant, making such medication harder to access (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 8).
A second related issue suggested by the report is ‘opiophobia’, described as prejudice and misinformation concerning medical use of opioids. Whereas a balanced approach to opioid prescriptions is needed, a prevalent fear of non-medical use and its side-effects among health-care providers, regulators, and patients have led to an underestimation of needs and insufficient medical use in many countries (Ibid.).
What’s to be done
Even though this inequity in pain relief is indeed under-acknowledged, potential solutions should at least, in theory, not be gridlocked by economic interests. As morphine and morphine-like medication is cheap to produce and commonly used in Western medical systems, the problem is rather about framing and contesting stigmatization. While acknowledging the risks with a too laissez-faire approach, there is a need to recognize the value in a controlled medical use of opioids to avoid unnecessary suffering as well.
A way to do so, as the report highlights, would for instance be a broadening of the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on ensuring healthy lives and well-being for all. Currently, the battle against substance abuse is covered in the SDG target 3.5, a step forward however would be to include pain alleviation and access to pain relief as similarly essential objectives – for instance as part of SDG target 3.8 on universal health coverage. As a measure, this is of course not enough, but at the current stage, and given the documented ‘abyss’ of equity in pain treatment worldwide, simply diagnosing the issue as problematic per se would to some degree seem like progress.
 A member of a group of drugs to achieve analgesia, i.e. relief from pain. (editor’s note)
Knaul, F. M., Farmer, P. E., Krakauer, E. L., et al. (2017). Alleviating the access abyss in palliative care and pain relief––an imperative of universal health coverage: The Lancet Commission report. Lancet. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32513-8
Robin Porsfelt is a PhD fellow at the Department of Management, Society and Communication. He is part of a PhD cohort on time and societal challenges, with particular research interests in the sociology of valuation and global governance
In academia -especially for young researchers- there seems to be only one way to the top: publish frequently and in well-regarded journals. This pressure however may sometimes come at the expense of academic quality. As with other things, good research sometimes just needs time. Unfortunately, infrequent publishing might be followed by less recognition, and funding might be more difficult to obtain in the short-term. Eventually, one might lose the opportunity to move up the career ladder. In a nutshell: Publish or perish.
The pressure of frequent publishing
My experience is that the phrase seems to ignite a range of emotions from rage to acceptance among academics. This can be a conversation starter or something that inevitably comes up in conversation. The dilemma is also at the epicenter of different symposia, conferences and other scholarly debates. The woes of the publish or perish dilemma are manifold. To name a few, ‘salami slicing’ e.g. taking one idea or dataset and reusing it in various papers, disillusionment with the publishing process and lack of creativity. Yet, few researchers investigate the publish or perish dilemma and why it endures (de Rond & Miller, 2005). In essence, is it the publish or perish dilemma that is the problem, or are we?
Below, I briefly introduce the birth of ‘the publish or perish’ dilemma and then delineate a few points on what I call the short-term pleasure dilemma of the publish or perish dilemma. I conclude with a few questions to consider what a ‘publish or perish’ free world would look like. I suggest that paradoxically, we might enjoy the publish or perish dilemma because it provides short-term gratification in a long-term context. In this age of publish or perish, I should note that I am by no means a gratification theory scholar and raise these questions based on my own personal experiences in academia for further research purposes.
To publish or to perish
The idea behind the publish or perish dilemma is often traced back to two studies by the Carnegie and Ford Foundations in the mid-1950’s which looked at the state of business education in the US. The findings of the studies deplored the lack of intellectual relevance and dynamism, analytical prowess and lack of high quality journals in organization sciences (de Rond & Miller, 2005, citing Gordon & Howell, 1959, pp. 355, 379). As a result, research which had been on the backburner compared to teaching endeavors became the hallmark, or at least of equal significance, to teaching in academic organizations (ibid). The idea also traveled to Europe with similar studies conducted in the UK and France in the 1960s and 70s and has since spread like wildfire globally. In essence, with the prevailing publish or perish idea, there has been a focus on publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals, citation impact factors and tenure rewarded as a result of publications. This has led to the criticism that scientific quality e.g. innovation and intellectual inquiry has come at the expense of publishing expeditiously to move up the career ladder. One example of these costs is the phenomena of “rogue publishers” or journals which offer to publish (often younger scholars) at a fee thereby abusing the peer-review system.
Taking this into consideration, I suggest some areas that require further research (to do at another time due to the publish or perish dilemmaJ) which suggest that the publish or perish system endures because it provides short-term gratification in a long-term academic game.
While it has been argued that publishing frequently comes at the expense of originality and innovation, academics also cite deadlines such as paper calls and conferences and the review process itself as means to work through ideas and enable them to come to fruition. This suggests that there may be some short-term gratification that results from publishing often as opposed to waiting years for a high-quality idea to emerge and be published. On the contrary, if the idea might not amount to something publishable, the review process may be a way to root it out. Clearly, the inverse is also true e.g. that great ideas and theories are obviously not developed in a day but short-term gratification might be attained from delivering frequent outputs.
Publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals
Publishing in top-tier peer-reviewed journals has been a source of great contention as many argue that the process forces publications into certain conversations and might prize certain discourses, that the metrics which rank journals are problematic and that the peer-review process itself is rife with transparency, bias and time allocation issues. Yet, publishing in top-tiered journals also provides scholars with a sense of pride, inclusion into an academic conversation and sense of accomplishment. Again, there seems to be a sense of short-term gratification related to publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals: scholars develop a certain prestige, are able to network and communicate with others in the community and use a yardstick to measure their progress. Given that senior scholars do not need to prove themselves to the same extent that junior scholars do, it can be argued that gratification might be more of a short-term benefit.
Moving up the career ladder
Publishing frequently and in top-tiered peer reviewed journals is the ticket to advancing in academia. But once you move to the top, there is likely less gratification received from publishing in top-tiered journals and publishing frequently. Therefore, it is likely more gratifying in the short-term to publish frequently and in top-tiered journals because they can lead to career advancement.
The short-term publish or perish pleasure dilemma or an alternative?
Taking these factors into consideration, the question remains as to whether this short-term gratification is at the expense of the long-term. This raises the question as to what the alternative would look like. Presumably, it would involve publishing less frequently, in journals of the author’s choice and using other metrics for evaluation. What do you think? Is this what the new generation of academics should strive for or should we continue to play the game and enjoy the short-term gratification / pleasure dilemma like eating a Snickers bar?
Luisa Murphy is a PhD Fellow at Copenhagen Business School and supported by the VELUX Endowed Chair in Corporate Sustainability. Her research examines governance for anti-corruption. She brings a human rights and business background from the University of Oxford and legal experience from the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.
Addressing climate change requires an urgent implementation of far-reaching solutions. Policy-makers and natural scientists have mainly offered supply-side solutions to solving the climate problem, such as widespread adoption of new or innovative technologies. While of critical importance, strictly prioritising supply-side solutions is unlikely to deliver the necessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions within the desired time frame. An often-overlooked demand-side solution is behaviour change, which can offer both immediate and long-term reductions in GHG emissions.
There is an urgent need for rapid decarbonisation to reduce the magnitude of climate change. The Paris Agreement reflected this urgency in its formulation of ambitious goals to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C and preferably 1.5°C. Since the Paris Agreement, researchers—often affiliated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—have with accelerated frequency been building scenarios for potential pathways to reach the temperature goals. These far-reaching—and arguably radical—pathways involve urgent transitions to renewable energy sources and the majority assumes the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, such as afforestation or bio energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Neither of the pathway scenarios take behavioral changes into account despite the fact that studies have shown its potential to reduce GHG emissions. For example, Thomas Dietz and colleagues (2009) found that a national implementation of behavioural changes in the United States could reduce U.S. households’ direct emissions by 20% within 10 years (representing 123 million tons of CO2). Although not sufficient single-handedly, behaviour change can help speed up the decarbonisation of societies.
Three dimensions of behaviour change
To identify the potential of behavioural changes to reduce GHG emissions, it is critical to consider three dimensions:
the technical potential (TP) of a behaviour, or the emissions reduction achieved if an individual or a target population collectively adopted the behaviour;
behavioural plasticity (BP), or the proportion of the technical potential achievable through the most effective behavioural interventions; and
feasibility of initiatives (IF) to induce change, which refers to the likelihood that the most effective interventions are achievable within a target population.
Focusing exclusively on either of the three dimensions will result in skewed analyses from which only imperfect interventions can be developed. For example, substituting a GHG-intensive behaviour with a less GHG-intensive alternative (e.g., flying to Bermuda on vacation versus vacationing in one’s own country) will promise a high TP but the extent to which people are willing to make such a behavioural substitution may be less promising (BP) and so might the feasibility of achieving the behavioural change across a large population (IF). Conversely, a behaviour could be easy to change (e.g., getting people to shut off lights in unoccupied rooms) and feasibly be implemented in a large population, yet hold a very low TP and therefore even in the aggregate fail to reduce emissions by much.
Identifying the most promising target behaviours
The task of researchers (across disciplines) in collaboration with policy-makers and companies is to identify the behaviours with the highest potential to reduce GHG emissions while considering all three dimensions in cohesion. Making such calculations is no easy task—as the dimensions may vary substantially between and within countries—but neither is adopting innovative technologies at a massive scale. However, focusing on both supply- and demand-side solutions will heighten the likelihood of achieving the Paris goals.
 Dietz et al., 2009; Vandenbergh & Gilligan, 2017.
Dietz, T., Gardner, G. T., Gilligan, J., Stern, P. C., & Vandenbergh, M. P. (2009). Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(44), 18452-18456.
Rogelj, J., Popp, A., Calvin, K. V., Luderer, G., Emmerling, J., Gernaat, D., … & Krey, V. (2018). Scenarios towards limiting global mean temperature increase below 1.5° C. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 325.
Vandenbergh, M. P., & Gilligan, J. M. (2017). Beyond Politics. Cambridge University Press.
Kristian Steensen Nielsen is a PhD Fellow in environmental behaviour change at Copenhagen Business School. His research interests are self-control, behaviour change, and environmentally significant behaviour.
With the rise of Airbnb and Uber into the elite club of Silicon Valley superstar firms, the sharing economy has become an accepted business concept and social practice. Apart from the fact that sharing economy platforms (SEPs), such as Airbnb and Uber, are very savvy in playing labelling games (most of them have little to nothing to do with actual sharing), they are also very savvy in purposefully blurring established institutional boundaries and categories – most prominently, categories of employment and labour. By facilitating the “casual participation” of private individuals as users of their services, SEPs can gain significant advantages over well-established incumbents as they disrupt mature markets and labour structures as well as challenge long-held wisdoms of how to organize the creation and distribution of value.
It’s a thing now
The sharing economy is here to stay. Although, it is not yet clear whether the sharing economy will turn out to be as big a thing as the hype surrounding it suggests. Just to give some indicative numbers; The Economist estimates that the consumer peer-to-peer rental market is worth $26 billion, McKinsey predicts that the sharing economy will rise to $335 billion in revenues by 2025. In Denmark, 10% of the population has participated in the sharing economy in some form, while the Danish government announced a sharing economy strategy. At least it is safe to say that the hype is real and so are the expectations for high returns on the investments made into sharing economy platforms.
Something new, something old
The sharing economy, in its contemporary digitally platformed version, is the result of the confluence of three developments:
The rise of access-over-ownership as consumers are increasingly okay with paying for services and servitised products rather than to buy stuff. Streaming services, such as Netflix and Spotify, are telling examples. When we say access-based consumption or on-demand economy, we typically refer to this development.
The rise of peer-to-peer networks, which allow for direct inter- and transactions between peers coordinated by trust and reputation mechanisms. Think eBay and YouTube – typical examples of what we sometimes call the peer-to-peer economy or collaborative economy.
Allocating idle resources in order to tap into privately owned resources (assets and labour) and to promote more economical and sustainable use of resources as a result. Examples are IKEA’s second-hand campaign or renting out idle storage space via sharemystorage.com. Terms such as collaborative consumption and circular economy typically refer to this notion.
None of these developments is, of course, new nor exclusive to the sharing economy. Clans have been sharing food and tools since the dawn of humanity. Donating blood peer-to-peer has been around for at least half a century and the allocation of idle resources in brick-and-mortar second-hand shops even longer. The same applies to digital varieties of these practices; sharing files or selling/buying peer-to-peer online have been around since the 1990s (eBay was founded in 1995, Napster in 1999, Wikipedia in 2001). What is new is how these developments come together under specific technological, economic and cultural circumstances.
Mature technologies of automation enable private individuals to casually participate in economic activities as they self-service on dedicated platforms, which run automated matchmaking algorithms. Network effects attract larger groups of participants, increasing the economic value of those platforms (and of the corporations owning them). Thus, the coordination of casual participants has become a highly profitable business model. Culturally, these developments have become socially acceptable and appropriate as the new narrative of the Web 2.0 propagates “sharing is caring” and a general fascination with technological wizardry.
Four generic types of sharing economy platforms
An important outcome of above developments is that established institutional categories are becoming blurred, and static boundaries are becoming fluid. SEPs purposefully utilize these fluid boundaries to their advantage – be it between firms and markets (are Uber drivers employees or self-employed?), between internal and external resources (Airbnb hosts bring their own assets and have all the risks), and between private and business spheres (participants monetize and commodify their private life into assets), to name but only the most important examples. In our research (with Ioanna Constantiou, Dept. of Digitalization, CBS, and Virpi Tuunainen, Dept. of Information and Service Economy, Aalto University), we found that successful SEPs are very good at exploiting these boundary fluidity for their purposes. We identified four generic types we call the Franchiser, Chaperone, Principal, and Gardener.
The Franchiser aims for tight control over the platform participants and high rivalry among the service providers. The prototypical example is Uber, exploiting boundary fluidity by treating its drivers like employees while making them compete for fares dictated by Uber’s algorithm.
The Chaperone aims for loose control over the participants and high rivalry among the service providers. This is, of course, the Airbnb model; Airbnb exploits boundary fluidity by treating its participants like community members expected to follow norms and values while making the hosts compete like micro-entrepreneurs, who set their own prices based on Airbnb’s recommendation.
The Principal aims for tight control over the participants and low rivalry among the service providers. For instance, Handy (a per-task labour platform) treats its service providers like employees by making them sign contracts while the service providers participate in tenders based on standardized prices dictated by Handy.
Finally, the Gardener aims for loose control over the participants and low rivalry among the service providers. For instance, Couchsurfing (facilitating short-term, free-of-charge accommodation) leaves it to the participants to coordinate their accommodation while eliminating rivalry among the hosts by not allowing them to charge money.
Not so obvious implications
What each of these four types have in common is that they all rely on the casual participation of their user base; that is, their users typically operate on smaller scale, use their personal resources, and are less experienced than traditional service providers and professionals (not only in terms of delivering services but also protecting oneself against exploitative business practices). Combined with digitalisation, such casualness provides unprecedented sources for creating value and disguises large portions of the labour of the participants.
It is the degree to which this hidden labour has become the core of the business models of Uber, Airbnb, Handy, and Couchsurfing, that is really new.
To name just two examples. By means of the app and data-driven algorithms, Uber obviously replaces taxi dispatchers. Not so obvious, however, is the hidden labour provided by the Uber riders who, by scoring their rides, control the service quality. This used to be the purview of employed and paid middle managers. Likewise, Airbnb does not only profit from on-boarding private individuals as hosts (instead of hiring professional concierges) but also from the marketing those hosts provide not just for themselves but for Airbnb, the corporation – hidden labour, which would have traditionally required to pay marketing specialists.
It is a not-so-sharing economy we are dealing with. In fact, the sharing economy is the quintessential expression of a new logic of capital accumulation in the digital economy, where large portions of labour are disguised as casual (or even pleasurable) participation in the name of self-servicing and sharing. These forms of hidden labour are not unintended consequences; they are essential parts of the platform business model, as they sustain the digital systems and algorithmic operations of those platforms in order to make “sharing” not only economically viable but, above all, profitable. As a result, the historically and culturally important institution of sharing (in the true sense of the word) is thinned out and replaced by the logic of the platform economy, the micro-entrepreneurial ethos of monetizing every aspect of one’s “everydayness”, and the precarity of depending on demand.
Attila Marton is Associate Professor at the Department of Digitalization at Copenhagen Business School. He focuses the interplay between information management and digital memory studies and the question how we will remember and forget the past in the future.His research can also be found on Academia and ResearchGate.
 See Katz, V. 2015. “Regulating the sharing economy,” Berkeley Technology Law Journal (30:385).