Designing effective nudges that satisfy ethical constraints: the case of environmentally responsible behaviour

Abstract

We discuss what makes a “good” environmental nudge from the policy maker’s point of view. We first delineate what is paternalistic about environmental nudges. We then discuss the effectiveness of nudges, including their paradoxical effects on the targeted behaviour, as well as possible collateral effects on the decision-maker’s wellbeing. We also discuss why the libertarian and ethical aspect of nudges may render them more, and not less, attractive as policy instruments and decision aids. We conclude by discussing accuracy and privacy concerns of information-based nudges, and with some recommendations for the design of effective and ethical nudges.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We assume that protection of the individual is the primary motive of the state in these examples, although we recognize that in many countries minimizing state-subsidized health-care and social security costs will also be a secondary motive.

  2. 2.

    Again, there may be some personal benefits for the drivers targeted by such measures, such as reduced risk of accidents. But we assume for the sake of argument that this is not the principal motive for introducing such measures.

  3. 3.

    For example, the CNIL (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés) in France has established a legal framework specifying rights and obligations concerning three different kinds of data exchange in “intelligent” buildings (cf. http://www.cnil.fr/linstitution/actualite/article/article/innovation-dans-le-pilotage-energetique-du-logement-un-pack-de-conformite-pour-les-compteurs-c/). This framework seeks to respect the privacy of the consumer during the implementation of energy saving programmes in France.

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Acknowledgements

The first two authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Grant ANR-2010-CEPL-009-02).

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Correspondence to Denis Hilton.

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Hilton, D., Treich, N., Lazzara, G. et al. Designing effective nudges that satisfy ethical constraints: the case of environmentally responsible behaviour. Mind Soc 17, 27–38 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11299-019-00201-8

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Keywords

  • Nudges
  • Regulation
  • Environment
  • Ethics