Can Social Comparisons and Moral Appeals Induce a Modal Shift Towards Low-Emission Transport Modes?

77 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2023 Last revised: 23 Apr 2024

See all articles by Johannes Gessner

Johannes Gessner

University of Mannheim - Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences

Wolfgang Habla

DHBW Villingen-Schwenningen

Ulrich J. Wagner

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 16, 2024

Abstract

Because company cars add to corporate CO2 footprints, companies are beginning to replace cars with mobility budgets that employees can use for leisure and commuting trips. This study examines whether nudges can encourage sustainable travel in such a subsidized setting. We conduct a field experiment with 341 employees of a large German company. Observing expenditure items charged to the mobility budget, we test if social comparisons and a climate-related moral appeal induce a shift towards low-emissions transport modes. We find that simultaneous application of both nudges causes a reduction in car use, particularly taxi and ride sharing, as well as substitution towards micromobility, but not public transport. The social comparison alone is not effective, and the treatment effects of the combined nudge vanish in the second half of the treatment period. Survey evidence suggests that these results are driven by a minority that complies with the communicated social norm.

Keywords: mobility budget, randomized experiment, nudging, social comparison, moral appeal, habit formation

JEL Classification: C93, D04, D91, L91

Suggested Citation

Gessner, Johannes and Habla, Wolfgang and Wagner, Ulrich J., Can Social Comparisons and Moral Appeals Induce a Modal Shift Towards Low-Emission Transport Modes? (April 16, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4620353 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4620353

Johannes Gessner

University of Mannheim - Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences

Wolfgang Habla

DHBW Villingen-Schwenningen ( email )

Friedrich-Ebert-Straße 30
Villingen-Schwenningen, 78054
Germany

Ulrich J. Wagner (Contact Author)

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics ( email )

D-68131 Mannheim
Germany

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