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External Colloquium: Jan Willem Bolderdijk (RUG)

Wanneer:do 07-12-2017 15:30 - 16:45
Waar:B.0128, Grote Rozenstraat 31, 9712 TG Groningen

Jan Willem Bolderdijk (University of Groningen): Tipping Points in Sustainable Consumption

Many consumers wish to minimize the social and environmental harm associated with their consumption decisions. Yet sustainable innovations often fail to reach a ‘tipping point’. Why? Any innovation initially fights an upstream battle, as it defies existing customs and traditions. Based on my recent work, I propose an additional hurdle exacerbating the difficult introduction stage for sustainable innovations: early adopters may be reluctant to publically endorse sustainable innovations, knowing this can make non-adopters feel morally-inadequate. This psychological phenomenon may have society-wide implications: mainstream consumers are unlikely to adopt innovations lacking social proof, and governments are less prone to support innovations (e.g. charging stations for electric cars) lacking substantial demand. Thus, I propose that the tendency to hide one’s moral inclinations from others - a micro-level phenomenon -leads to macro-level outcomes: the lack of consumer uptake of sustainable innovations. Using combination dynamic lab experiments, analyses of real-life diffusion rates and agent-based simulations, I test this account. The results may offer support a new vision on environmental policy and marketing; the key to promoting widespread adoption of sustainable innovations may not lie in educating and motivating a broad base of consumers, but rather in ‘liberating’ early adopters to act on their already existing sustainable inclinations. Jan Willem Bolderdijk is an assistant professor at the Marketing Department of the University of Groningen. He studies moral decision making, with a particular focus on understanding and fostering environmentally-sustainable consumer behavior. He received a VENI grant for his research on the social risks of sustainable consumption. The Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Groningen awarded him the Outstanding Junior Researcher award in 2015.

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