What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
Palau, a Polynesian island nation, faces a critical challenge rooted in its heavy reliance on tourism (85% of its GDP, pre-COVID). Tourism alone equates to more than eight times its own population, with 160,000 tourists arriving each year. However, it also poses a significant threat as thousands of tourists year after year leave behind trash, engage in harmful interactions with nature and pose a significant danger to the islands’ delicate ecosystem.
The local government initially pursued a communication strategy centred on the island’s visitor experience and natural beauty. However, despite these efforts attracting more visitors, they failed to address the initial problem.
The Green Nudge:
A group of four local activists joined forces with Host/Havas and created the ‘Palau Pledge,’ which asks visitors to make a promise to preserve the island’s extraordinary wonders. This is achieved through a mandatory passport stamp, which every traveller must sign upon their arrival in Palau.
The pledge, written by the children of the island, asked visitors to embrace the culture, respect the environment and make sure that “the only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.” The stamps were produced in the five major visitor languages: Japanese, Korean, English, Chinese, and Taiwanese.
The result: Unfortunately the impact could not be measured and isolated. According to Havas, 96% of tourists said “the pledge made them consider their actions more closely,” while 65% said they used the pledge’s principles during their stay to remind others about the right way to protect Palau’s delicate environment.
While specific behavioural data for the effectiveness of the intervention is lacking, research on the signature effect and its influence on behaviour has been explored in various contexts:
- Psychological Commitment: When individuals physically sign their names on a document or pledge, it creates a sense of personal commitment. They are more likely to follow through with the promise they’ve made because it aligns with their self-image as someone who keeps their word.
- Identity Alignment: When tourists sign the pledge, they are not just making a commitment; they are aligning themselves with a specific identity – that of a responsible and environmentally conscious traveller. By signing, tourists signal to themselves and others that they are part of a group that values environmental preservation, which can lead to behaviour that supports this identity.
- Social Norm Formation: Tourists arriving in Palau see others signing the pledge and conform to this social norm, making responsible behaviour the expected and accepted standard.
Are you aware of any other nudges that promote sustainable tourism? Feel free to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org