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With the contribution of the LIFE programme of the European Union - LIFE14 ENV/GR/000611

Rewarding behaviour change from EPOMM

Making individual travel behaviour more sustainable is a difficult task. The ordinary management strategies are based on punishment and enforcement. However, it is accepted that people are more motivated when rewarded rather than punished, because of the creation positive associations with the behaviour. According to NBS report on Driving Social Change, people should have three elements in order to achieve changing behaviour: the ability, the opportunity and the motivation to change. It is clear that for triggering motivation, rewards are an excellent tool and could be either material (money) or virtual (rankings).

Rewards with an economical benefit are another interventionist and successful way for changing behaviour. The project, named Spitsmijden, is still running since 2006 in Netherlands with amazing results on making travelers avoid peak times for their transport. The project is based on financial incentives for each traveller and a report shows a 20-50% alteration. However, after the end of the reward scheme, most participants reverted back to their old behaviour. Other relevant famous examples are the Travel Smart Rewards programme in Singapore and a vat – deduction program in Portugal.

Another way of promoting environmentally friendly mobility schemes is celebrating behaviour change. The way we travel is as much an emotional and practical choice, as it is an economical one. So, altruistic and environmental considerations provide a more stable basis for sustainable behaviour than egoistic ones. Routine daily behaviour tends to be based on habit and giving up “bad” habits can be painful. Thus, a reward for every small step of changing is effective, especially at the beginning. Celebration behaviour change leads us to achieve recognition, create new patterns of behaviour, motivate to continue and build self-esteem, a crucial mechanism in order to maintain change.

Although people prefer large monetary awards, participants have greater satisfaction and motivation with gifts. However, it is believed that the most important characteristic for consumer’ mental reactions is not the size of the incentive but the degree to which a reward acknowledges the actors’ intrinsic motivation.

In that spirit, there are a large amount of applications and online tools that encourage sustainable mobility behaviour using rewards. Besides the abovementioned rewards, these tools use the principles of gamification. Gamification is a simple, useful and most times fun tool to trigger behaviour change. Some examples of gamification and reward apps are: Waze, the largest community-based traffic and navigation app, The Chromaroma project, a London's Oyster card powered travel game, CO2 Fit, an app to measure the CO generated from travel and reward active and low-emitting options. Some other examples are Mobi, the La’Zooz app in Israel, Bounts, Better Points and CleanSpace in the UK, GreenApes in Florence or Biko in Colombia.

Monetary rewards are a powerful tool to make short-term behaviour change. However, rewards that create a positive attitude with a certain behaviour and celebrate each small step in the behaviour change process is the key of achieving a more permanent behavior change. The obstacles to behaviour change are several and the challenge is the combination of incentives with disincentives and enforcement measures. Each country and each city can adopt any of those ways as pilots and record results in order to conclude to the most suitable practice for their local settings.

For more information: click here.

The LIFE GYM [LIFE14 ENV/GR/000611] project is co-funded by the LIFE programme, the EU financial instrument for the environment.


The sole responsibility for the content of this report lies with the authors. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union. Neither the EASME nor the European Commission are responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.


Start Date: 15 September 2015 – Duration: 35 months

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