SC Johnson is taking a refreshing new approach to sustainability by studying consumer behavior to figure out what makes people ‘go green.’ The goal of the study is to identify what drives sustainable behavior change. What makes the project unusual is that the company wants to increase the sustainability of its products and meet consumer needs at the same time.
SC Johnson has a track-record of 12 years of sustainability reporting and an excellent sustainability program. Even with over $9 billion in annual sales, they are very much a family-owned business and their current effort is focused on “closing the persistent gap between families’ environmental aspirations and their everyday choices.” Two days ago they announced two programs to help families better align their goals:
- The SC Johnson Sustainable Behavior Change Program will study how to inspire behavior change around sustainable choices.
- The SC Johnson Green Choices Recycling Challenge is a partnership with Recyclebank to incent consumers to reduce waste at the source in communities across the U.S.
According to Chairman and CEO, Fisk Johnson, “We have to figure out how to make sustainable choices easier and more desirable for families. Companies need to offer responsible products and operate sustainably. But importantly, consumers also need to demand, and then choose, green options.”
This is something that many companies have tried to do in their own but SC Johnson is the first to dedicate a research effort to the problem. Over the next five years, the company will bring together academics, environmentalists and consumers to identify what drives behavior change around a number of sustainable actions.
To conduct this study, the company is teaming with two experts in behavior-change: Dr. Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, and Dr. Vladas Griskevicius, University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professor of Marketing. Results and insights from their studies will be shared publicly, so that the findings will benefit everyone who cares about what drives sustainable behavior.
The initial research from the behavior program will be applied to the Recycling Challenge, with the aim of increasing curbside recycling in 50 communities. With the colossal amounts of waste that end up in landfills, recycling is an ideal way to understand people’s motivation to change. This program will not only aim to increase consumers’ recycling but is also part of the company’s aim to become landfill neutral by 2016.
Changing behavior is probably one of the hardest things anyone can do but many are trying. So far the verdict is out on whether people veer towards a more sustainable lifestyle due to health reasons, environmental reasons or simply because it makes them feel good. SC Johnson might give us a clearer answer to this conundrum, which will not only help companies develop their products, refine their marketing and improve their ability to meet customer needs.