How to implement nudging?

For many years we have seen great examples of nudging being used as a tool towards more sustainable behavior. Nudging is definitely not the silver bullet, but for sure a powerful spur to change behavior in certain context. The downside of nudging is that it doesn’t involve active engagement as it is just a one way message in a certain direction. The best nudging example for a more sustainable behavior is the colored bins on the streets or malls, to tell you to put your trash in the right one. Another often used example is the – often funny – mirror stickers in the toilet reminding you to mindfully use water when washing your hands. Nudging is everywhere possible. How would you be able to implement nudging in your business?


The United Nations Environment Program developed a program for universities around the world to implement green nudging upon the return on campus after COVID19. They included the Go East method as way to go for societies around the world. As nudging focuses on aspects of human behavior that are largely universal it can be globally effective if you follow these four elements:

  • Easy – the easier the change can be realized, the more results you will generate
  • Attractive – it’s all about what catches the eye, spend time on the design process
  • Social – we like to copy others, so make the nudge publicly visible
  • Timely – we are creatures of habit, so nudges are most effective at the moment we are open for change in our livest

Test over time

It’s important to test the nudge before you implement it largely in your business. Even with a ‘proven’ concept you need to test your field. As it is such a psychological way of implementing change, it’s – again – all about people. They will make it work or not.  Also, not every nudge will last; so keep on evaluating over time. Because there is a risk that the effect doesn’t last long enough to change habits. So you need to follow up with the path of your nudge. Think again about this sticker on the mirror in the toilet. The first times you will notice it and it will make you think and change. But after a while they’re part of the interior, you might not even notice it anymore. The question arises if that sticker was enough to make it a habit.

A small nudge can go a long way

When thinking about the nudging options that you can implement in your business to change behavior either from your employees or your clients, it doesn’t have to be a big change. A small nudge can go a long way if implemented correctly. One of the reasons why it is such a popular tool is that a small change, can be very productive ánd cost efficient. Like a lot of university cafeterias are now serving more sustainable food at eye level and the other food  behind or below. This is a small change that will trigger everybody every single day. And as an extra plus; the result is easily measured. The trick with every nudge is not to restrict. People always must be able to choose, sustainable or not. The most well known nudge for this is the default option. When choosing the type of energy, your provider will automatically tick the green energy box for you,  but you can still choose conventional energy. Research shows that more people stick to the default option. 

Provide information

As said, a nudge is communicating one way. In a very subtle way to make you change your behavior. To accelerate a nudge it’s important to provide information about it. This doesn’t have to explain the outcome, we’re after all using a nudge for a good reason. But this can be about educating the bigger message. So these universities that changed the order of food offerings, they are also communicating about the importance of a balanced meal in a newsletter. The nudge will therefore resonate even more. As you will read about a way to improve your lifestyle and then in a different situation have the option to implement that suggestion. But the information can also be about the social norms. If you read messages like ‘65% of your neighbors already use a smart meter’ you will be more intrigued to use this meter. These kind of meters are the ultimate form of a data driven nudge as people see the impact of their behavioral change immediately.

Looking forward to implement nudging in your business? Let’s team up

Picture of Martine de Leeuw

Martine de Leeuw

Senior PR specialist & communication expert | Impact maker | Founder of JungleBird Agency
Owner of the Manilla-based social enterprise Notadaydream

let's have a drink!

Change triggers served on a golden tray.

We source. We mix. We shake. We share.
You experience.