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Saving Power to Conserve Your Reputation? The Effectiveness of Private versus Public Information

40 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2014  

Magali A. Delmas

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Neil Lessem

The Brattle Group; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Date Written: January 5, 2014

Abstract

Environmental damage is often an unseen byproduct of other activities. Disclosing environmental impact privately to consumers can reduce the costs and/or increase the moral benefits of conservation behaviors, while publicly disclosing such information can provide an additional motivation for conservation -- cultivating a green reputation. In a unique field experiment in the residence halls at the University of California -- Los Angeles, we test the efficacy of detailed private and public information on electricity conservation. Private information was given through real-time appliance level feedback and social norms over usage, and public information was given through a publicly visible conservation rating. Our analysis is based on 7,120 daily observations about energy use from heating and cooling, lights and plug load for 66 rooms collected over an academic year. Our results suggest that while private information alone was ineffective, public information combined with private information motivated a 20 percent reduction in electricity consumption achieved through lower use of heating and cooling. Public information was particularly effective for above median energy users.

Keywords: conservation behavior, conspicuous consumption, image motivation, electricity, energy efficiency, signaling, public information

JEL Classification: Q2, Q4, Q5, D03

Suggested Citation

Delmas, Magali A. and Lessem, Neil, Saving Power to Conserve Your Reputation? The Effectiveness of Private versus Public Information (January 5, 2014). Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2374874

Magali A. Delmas (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

Neil Lessem

The Brattle Group ( email )

Suite 2800
201 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

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