We had a course named Continuous Transformation in February, it was about philosophical concepts and how they relate to sustainability. We were talking about innovation and the role it plays for sustainability. Our group in that discussion came to the point that material innovations are not very likely to be the key to a sustainable future. Just think of the eco-bag that even is a little scammy in itself. It is fully biodegradable but of course requires energy in production. But why not just use any other bag that is already produced and lying around instead of buying a new eco-bag? This and many other sustainability oriented innovations are not what they seem to be when seen in the big picture. When we were talking about what companies have contributed to sustainable or unsustainable behavior, this session from the course came back to my mind. We came up with a name for it (credit to Elise) – Immaterial Behavioral Innovation, short IBS. We thought that innovation of behavior might be exactly what we need to strive for. I guess it comes close to nudging in some aspects. An example would be the following:
You would definitely use less water for washing your hands if you see that goldfish losing its living room space. Or if you put the gas or electricity counter of your house in the entrance hall instead of the cellar; I bet a lot of people would start to rethink their electricity/gas use because they would walk past the counter and see the figures every day. There are many leverage points in humans for behavioral innovation like guilt, willingness to save money, making things transparent and so on. But we also have to be careful in this area where we draw the line of manipulation and how we can keep up reflective behavior of individuals. Another issue with those kinds of innovations might be to build a business model around them. But apart from that I think that we can change many of our behaviors and habits by clever innovations that go into that direction.