Nudging & Sustainability

23. August 2022, MAXFIVE

Record temperatures, forest fires, drought, flooding, mudslides. Although climate change didn’t just kick in yesterday, the extreme weather events we are witnessing this summer are already giving us a bitter taste of what’s to come if we fail to hit the highly ambitious climate targets set by the European Union. And it’s not just dyed-in-the-wool environmental activists who are coming to the conclusion that something has to be done, but regular Joe Public too.


control consumer behavior
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Greater eco-awareness among the general population is increasingly informing consumer behaviour. A study published by Nuremberg-based consumer research company GfK in 2021 indicated that more than a third of households had already made changes to their own shopping habits. Specifically, this means things like doing without products or services that they believe are harmful to the environment or society.

For Generation Z, sustainable grocery shopping has long been part of the mainstream.

As a result of all this, food retailers are confronted with growing demand for climate-friendly shopping opportunities. It is the industry’s job to make sure it does not fall short. But before they can credibly position themselves as the go-to option for sustainability-conscious consumers, supermarkets first need to work on their own, not inconsiderable carbon footprints. There’s plenty of scope for action: energy consumption, packaging waste, soil surface sealing.

REWE shows the way

REWE is already showing how it’s done in a pilot project in Wiesbaden, Germany, where a new flagship store has all the angles covered: a CO2 -neutral timber structure, more efficient cooling thanks to doors on the chiller units, low-energy LED lighting and a glass atrium roof that allows natural light to pour into the store.

In the car park, a special stabilisation grid allows rainwater to soak straight into the soil – a far cry from the usual impermeable asphalt wasteland. On the roof, meanwhile, the water is immediately put to good use to keep the in-house basil farm in tip-top shape. The fertiliser is sourced two floors down: the waste produced by the fish kept in the basement provides high-quality nitrates for the plants.

But there’s more to it than just infrastructure.

In the sustainable supermarket of tomorrow, the shop floor has to be an experiential world that appeals to all the senses.  Greened walls, natural ambient sounds and scents can turn the point of sale into a green oasis of well-being.  Plastic – whether in packaging or used for store fixtures – grates on the environmentally conscious shopper’s nerves and should be switched out for sustainable materials such as wood instead. But there are pitfalls, too: simply coating plastic with wood effect finishes won’t cut it because anyone found guilty of greenwashing runs the risk of inflicting lasting damage on their image.

QR codes can be used to turn shopping into a truly interactive experience by linking to information (possibly even in the form of a video) about an item’s origin and production.  After all, transparency is the key to enabling consumers to make sustainable purchasing decisions.

There are also a few little tricks that can be used to make certain articles or consumer behaviour patterns more palatable. A classic use of “nudging” is to display the CO2  emissions resulting from the purchase at the end of the customer’s receipt, as this encourages them to try and reduce their footprint with each successive visit to the store.

Clever gamification is another such trick. Letting customers earn virtual trophies or collect discount points whenever they make a sustainable purchase provides a good incentive to make environmentally conscious choices.

At MAXFIVE, we see sustainable consumption as a megatrend that has huge disruptive potential when it comes to food retailing.  As a company, we are determined to do our bit to take us closer to hitting those climate goals. One important aspect of this is supporting our partners on their journey towards providing a more environmentally friendly shopping experience.  We firmly believe that with our expertise and innovation in sound concepts, visual storytelling and corporate scents, we have all the necessary tools at our fingertips to turn the vision of sustainable grocery shopping into a reality.

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