Net zero behaviour change. Who is responsible?

In this post I reflect on a conversation around making sustainable choices. Is it the consumers responsibility for achieving net zero?

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Last week I went to a networking event. It was busy with young professionals talking about challenges and opportunities in the current market. It was the first event I’ve attended since joining future Net Zero.

Throughout the night I spoke to people about carbon, sustainability, and the reason why businesses should be focusing on reducing their footprint. Businesses need to be taking action to make sure they do not miss out on future trade. As people want to buy from businesses doing the right thing, right? Well, maybe not.

We were talking about changing products to be more sustainable. Finding low carbon alternatives. When I was talking to two people, I raised a question:

‘If there were two products, exactly the same, one was more sustainable and the other was less, which one would…’

‘The cheapest one’.

Before I even finished my sentence, one of the people I was speaking to stated they would buy the cheapest product. They didn’t even ask about price difference. It did not matter.

The driver was price alone. Nothing else was considered.

What does this mean?

Do people think achieving net zero is the responsibility of the government and large corporates, or are consumers responsible for changing their behaviour?

Well, a House of Commons report states as much as 62% of emissions reductions relies on individual choices and changes in behaviour, from day-to-day lifestyle choices to one off purchases such as replacing boilers using fossil fuels, or purchasing an electric vehicle.

But if these choices cost more, how can we expect people to make more sustainable choices, especially during the cost-of-living crisis?

I personally believe we cannot rely on people to make the right choices.

Business bodies need to lobby local and regional MPs, and central government to create the right policies to support consumers.

In my last post I spoke about the 5p plastic bag charge. A successful scheme that changed consumer behaviour across the country.

I also don’t think charges or taxes are always the right approach either. Incentives can drive behaviour change as well. However, these incentives often benefit the few at cost for everyone else. The feed in tariff for installing electricity generation was a great example.

Deciding how we drive consumer behaviour is a major challenge with achieving net zero. There is no easy answer. Some argue it is government responsibility, others argue consumers need to change.

My view is that government must provide guidance and support to help consumers change. What do you think?

Please get in touch if you have thoughts around this or any other net zero topic.