IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/enepol/v57y2013icp160-171.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

For better or for worse? Empirical evidence of moral licensing in a behavioral energy conservation campaign

Author

Listed:
  • Tiefenbeck, Verena
  • Staake, Thorsten
  • Roth, Kurt
  • Sachs, Olga

Abstract

Isolated environmental campaigns focusing on defined target behaviors are rolled out to millions of households every year. Yet it is still unclear whether these programs trigger cross-domain adoption of additional environment-friendly behaviors (positive spillover) or reduced engagement elsewhere. A thorough evaluation of the real net performance of these programs is lacking. This paper investigates whether positive or perverse side effects dominate by exemplifying the impact of a water conservation campaign on electricity consumption. The study draws on daily water (10,780 data points) and weekly electricity (1386 data points) consumption data of 154 apartments in a controlled field experiment at a multifamily residence. The results show that residents who received weekly feedback on their water consumption lowered their water use (6.0% on average), but at the same time increased their electricity consumption by 5.6% compared with control subjects. Income effects can be excluded. While follow-up research is needed on the precise mechanism of the psychological process at work, the findings are consistent with the concept of moral licensing, which can more than offset the benefits of focused energy efficiency campaigns, at least in the short-term. We advocate the adoption of a more comprehensive view in environmental program design/evaluation in order to quantify and mitigate these unintended effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Tiefenbeck, Verena & Staake, Thorsten & Roth, Kurt & Sachs, Olga, 2013. "For better or for worse? Empirical evidence of moral licensing in a behavioral energy conservation campaign," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 160-171.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:57:y:2013:i:c:p:160-171
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2013.01.021
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513000281
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
    2. Madlener, R. & Alcott, B., 2009. "Energy rebound and economic growth: A review of the main issues and research needs," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 370-376.
    3. Matthew Kotchen & Michael Moore, 2008. "Conservation: From Voluntary Restraint to a Voluntary Price Premium," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 40(2), pages 195-215, June.
    4. Goeschl, Timo & Perino, Grischa, 2009. "On backstops and boomerangs: Environmental R&D under technological uncertainty," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 800-809, September.
    5. repec:eee:ijrema:v:25:y:2008:i:1:p:46-55 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
    7. Jacobsen, Grant D. & Kotchen, Matthew J. & Vandenbergh, Michael P., 2012. "The behavioral response to voluntary provision of an environmental public good: Evidence from residential electricity demand," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 946-960.
    8. Daylian M. Cain & George Loewenstein & Don A. Moore, 2005. "The Dirt on Coming Clean: Perverse Effects of Disclosing Conflicts of Interest," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-25, January.
    9. Elizabeth Shove, 2010. "Beyond the ABC: climate change policy and theories of social change," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 42(6), pages 1273-1285, June.
    10. Kivetz, Ran & Simonson, Itamar, 2002. " Self-Control for the Righteous: Toward a Theory of Precommitment to Indulgence," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(2), pages 199-217, September.
    11. Matthew J. Kotchen, 2009. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods for Bads: A Theory of Environmental Offsets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(537), pages 883-899, April.
    12. Strahilevitz, Michal & Myers, John G, 1998. " Donations to Charity as Purchase Incentives: How Well They Work May Depend on What You Are Trying to Sell," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(4), pages 434-446, March.
    13. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
    14. Sophie Clot & Gilles Grolleau & Lisette Ibanez, 2016. "Do good deeds make bad people?," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 491-513, December.
    15. Ian Ayres & Sophie Raseman & Alice Shih, 2009. "Evidence from Two Large Field Experiments that Peer Comparison Feedback Can Reduce Residential Energy Usage," NBER Working Papers 15386, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
    17. Paul J. Ferraro & Michael K. Price, 2013. "Using Nonpecuniary Strategies to Influence Behavior: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 64-73, March.
    18. A. Greening, Lorna & Greene, David L. & Difiglio, Carmen, 2000. "Energy efficiency and consumption -- the rebound effect -- a survey," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(6-7), pages 389-401, June.
    19. Thogersen, John, 1999. "Spillover processes in the development of a sustainable consumption pattern," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 53-81, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:57:y:2013:i:c:p:160-171. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.