The Emergence of the Incentivised Environmentalist

"Give them incentive and they will follow" says Ben McNeil, writing recently in The Age newspaper. 

He highlighted the redirection of "smart money" into 'clean tech' innovation as progressive firms look to gain future advantage in the emerging low carbon ecoomy. Citing a UN finance report, the past year was the "first in which new investment in clean technology (solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels) outstripped the old fossil-fuel economy (coal, gas) - by $US40 billion ($A43 billion)".

The article indicates that in the main, entrepreneurs and businesses will only act on sustainability opportunities when there is a clear financial incentive to do so. In the context of the article, the incentive is the potential price disadvantage of carbon costs, based on intensity of use as an input in the future.

But what about consumers? 

Will Australians change their behaviour and purchasing to the benefit of the environment above and beyond  their underlying concerns if there is a personal incentive to do so?  Findings from the Living LOHAS© 3 research suggest the answer is absolutely.

During 2009 there is evidence of the emergence of purchasing behaviour in some segments of the LOHAS Buildings & Energy category that is based on a personal financial reward, rather than concerns for community or the environment.  

These ‘incentivised environmentalists’ are being primarily motivated by the financial inducement offered by Government rebate and incentive programs on solar, water saving and energy efficiency, such as insulation.

This has resulted in numbers of Australians participating in categories outside the usual LOHAS product adoption cycle.

Incentives are clearly assisting many consumers who are not necessarily engaged to act based on their concerns and values alone, to take actions that have a positive environmental impact.

While it is expected that this type of spending will be transient; it is likely to persist for the duration of the government rebate and incentive programs.

The rebates clearly act to change the dynamics of the perceived value proposition for these products in a way that encourages behavioural change.

While personal benefit is the primary motivation, discussions clearly show that most feel good about their purchase and believe that they have made a positive contribution.

The interesting question moving forward is if these individuals have now been catalysed to  take a greater interest in community and environmental aspects of future purchase choice in categories where no incentive exists, or if they will only consider when a financial inducement exists.

Time will tell, but this growing trend certainly highlights the basic requirement from most in the community when it comes to making sustainable choices – there has to be something in it for me and my family.