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Carrots, sticks and values: what motivates sustainable behaviour?

21/07/11
Food Ethics Council
A report of the May 2011 meeting of the FEC’s Business Forum
Government wants to ‘nudge’ us towards living greener lives. This rejects the myth that we all act rationally, in favour of pragmatic strategies informed by behavioural economics. Rather than engaging people in the issues, the focus is on creating incentives, competition and other prompts for sustainable behaviour.

However, other behavioural research questions this approach, suggesting that motivations matter. By this thinking, building a sustainable economy depends on shifts in cultural values.

How do values affect our attitudes and behaviours? How do our values relate to each other and how do they change? How do institutions and policies affect our values? Does advertising and marketing strengthen or weaken ‘sustainable’ values? What does this mean in practice for the food sector?

The July 2011 meeting of the FEC Business Forum addressed these issues. We are very grateful to our speaker, Richard Hawkins, director of the Public Interest Research Centre. Dr Michelle Harrison, CEO of TNS-BMRB and a member of the FEC, chaired the event.

Download a report of the meeting