Reward and recognition could be a more effective way of changing people’s behaviour to green, rather than punishing and taxing them for not being environmentally friendly, according to a new report by the National Consumer Council (NCC) and the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

The report, “Carrots not sticks: the possibilities of a sustainable consumption reward card for the UK”, highlights an initiative that would use the principles of a loyalty card to reward sustainable behaviour, raise awareness, and lead consumers to demand more green goods and services.

“If we want to reduce waste, cut greenhouse-gas emissions and clean up energy production, we are going to have to change our behaviour. More than half of household waste is supermarket packaging, which consumers are obliged to accept. The problem is that people’s efforts are not rewarded in any way. Nor are they recognised. Our research shows that what people want is carrots, not sticks,” said Ed Mayo, chief executive at the NCC.

“We would like to see the UK adopt a scheme for an NU smart card – like the one in Holland. The idea is quite simple. Consumers get points for separating waste and buying sustainable products such as energy-efficient, fair-trade goods, bicycles, repairs and second-hand goods.

“The consumer buys something in a shop and gets points – one point for every euro spent. At the end of the day, the points issued by the shops are collected and automatically registered. People can then redeem points on more sustainable goods and services, for example, public transport, or leisure activities, such as going to the cinema, or swimming,” Mayo said.

To view the report Carrots not sticks: rewarding sustainable consumption (April 2004), click here.