Nudging for a sustainable HWR Berlin

Sometimes we are too comfortable, tired or simply too forgetful to act in the spirit of sustainability. Nudging is an effective and unobtrusive method, which helps choosing the sustainable option in a given situation.

The HWR Berlin is exploring ways to use Nudging as an assistance for the transformation to a sustainable university and to motivate university members to support it.

What is nudging?

Nudging is a concept from behavioural economics and a method of gentle nudging. The aim is to gently steer people's behaviour in one direction by creating incentives for desired behaviour that do not rely on prohibitions. Nudges often make use of human behaviour and thought patterns.

How can the university benefit from this?

Sustainability needs participation in many places: it is not just about big decisions, such as the expansion of photovoltaic systems, the addition of sustainability-relevant topics to curriculums or a ban on domestic flights for work trips. However, there are also many decisions that the university cannot and will not take away from its members. Many everyday actions, such as separating waste correctly, turning down the heating or using the stairs instead of the energy-intensive elevator, require everyone's help. This is where Nudging can come in, creating an incentive for climate-friendly alternative actions and at the same time raising awareness of the issue.

What happened so far…

In summer 2023, a competition ran for 8 weeks under the motto "Nudge me if you can".  The competition collected slogans for specific university situations that could function as nudges or enhance the effect of nudges. The best and most suitable slogans will be successively placed at appropriate locations in the university to motivate sustainable action.

The jury consisting of students, marketing professors, members of the university’s communication department and the sustainability council selected the following slogans as the winners of the single competition rounds:

The Winners

  • Theme 1: Walk instead of taking the lift

    »Take sustainability to the next level. Take the stairs!«

    Anika Kixmüller, employee of the study office at Department of Business and Economics

  • Theme 2: Use paper towels moderately.

    Hug a tree – Use less of me!

    Laura Wieblitz, student

  • Theme 3: Use reusable cups and instead of disposable products.

    Wo ein Wille, da ein Mehrweg

    Sharif Thib, head of communications department

  • Theme 4: Switch off screens, printers, laptops after use instead of using standby mode.

    »Schalte ab statt auf Standby und spare Energie dabei!«

    Anika Kixmüller, employee of the study office at Department of Business and Economics

  • Theme 5: Dispose of waste correctly.

    »Nase putzen, Restmüll nutzen!«

    Emilia Schäfter, student at the Department of Business and Economics

  • Theme 6: Throw cigarette butts into the trash instead of on the street.

    »Smoke Me, Quench Me, Trash Me gently«

    Constantin Wuntke, student at the Department of Cooperative Studies

  • Theme 7: Turn off lights, turn down heating when leaving the room.

    »Gehst du raus, dann spare munter: Licht aus und Heizung runter«

    Julia Mobile, employee of the study office at Department of Business and Economics

Next steps

The first step is to implement the slogan chosen as the favourite by the "audience" in the final vote. In order for the slogans and nudges to work as well as possible, a coordinated concept is needed that involves both locations and can actually initiate behavioural changes, i.e. that takes into account the specific behaviour of the university members in the different situations. This requires further testing, data collection and observation. Last but not least, a convincing design has to be created.

  • Winner of the final vote: »Wo ein Wille, da ein Mehrweg«

Special thanks to the Yorck Cinema Group, which supports the competition by donating the cinema tickets.