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The freedom of being nudged in the right direction: the nudging method

Nudging is designed to give consumers a little food for thought to help them better achieve the goals they set themselves. One of the masterminds behind this method is law scholar and Harvard professor Cass Sunstein. In the Porsche Newsroom he talks to Professor Lucia Reisch, the Spokesperson of the Porsche Sustainability Council.

One of the guiding principles of Ferry Porsche, the founder of the sports car brand, is as follows: The Porsche, as I have always understood it, is more than just an automobile; it is my philosophy of the freedom of individual mobility, which should serve mankind but not burden it! Among other things, this principle is expressed today by the Porsche Sustainability Council, which was set up in November 2016 to provide advice to the executive board and serve as an initiating body for economic, ecological and social issues.

It provides the company with advice, and issues recommendations on the steps it deems necessary for Porsche to become the most sustainable brand for exclusive and sporty mobility. Using this method, which is well established in the social sciences and economics, consumers are given little stimuli (‘nudges’) through information bits (e.g., reminders, hints about what others do, feedback of one’s own behaviour) and certain incentives (e.g., peer group approval, adherence to accepted social norms) and are therefore ‘nudged’ in a certain direction, or to act in a certain way, through intentional design of the decision-making environment (e.g. a website).

Nudging in various fields The important thing is that nudges should not manipulate people, but instead help customers to achieve the goals they have set themselves more easily. Common nudges include warnings on cigarette packets, the notices in hotel rooms stating that “9 out of 10 guests” reuse their towels, or default settings (e.g., ticked boxes) on airline websites for offsetting the carbon emissions per flight. Instead, they leave it up to people to decide freely, for instance by deselecting a default option on a website (e.g., choosing not to compensate emitted greenhouse gases of a flight or rental car drive while booking online). The concept of nudging can be traced back to social scientist and Nobel Prize winner, Richard Thaler, and legal scholar and Harvard professor Cass Sunstein. Sebastian Rudolph, Vice President Communications, Sustainability and Politics at Porsche, and Daniela Rathe, Director Politics and External Affairs, talked to both about how the strategy of nudging could play a role for the sports car manufacturer to become more sustainable.

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Daniela Rathe: That is an extremely interesting approach, which is not discussed as much in Germany, at least in the area of law, because the dividing line between law and politics is drawn much more clearly here. Ms Reisch, you investigate the things that motivate societies from an economic and social sciences perspective. What motivates you?

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I see charitable actions less as a nudge, but more as a separate category, in the sense that incentives are provided for others to imitate them. A charitable action can be the signal for someone else to also show social commitment, no matter whether on a large or small scale. One small good deed can change the world – at least for one person.

Info Reisch has been a member of the German Council for Sustainable Development and she has also been the Director of the Research Centre for Consumers, the Market and Politics at the Zeppelin University of Friedrichshafen since 2012. She is also a professor at the Copenhagen Business School in the Department of Intercultural Communication and Management.

Sunstein is currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard. He is the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. In 2018, he received the Holberg Prize from the government of Norway, sometimes described as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for law and the humanities. In 2020, the World Health Organization appointed him as Chair of its technical advisory group on Behavioural Insights and Sciences for Health. Sunstein is author of hundreds of articles and dozens of books, including „Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness“, which he published with Richard H.

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Oct 31, 2020 at 12:21

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