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Using social norms to reduce paper waste: Results from a field experiment in the Indian Information Technology sector

Chakravarty, Sujoy, Mishra, Rajan
Ecological economics 2019 v.164 pp. 106356
field experimentation, human resources, information technology, paper, printers, social behavior, India
We analyse the results from a longitudinal natural field experiment that provides an environmental nudge by reinforcing positive environmental norms. Posters asking individuals to use less paper are pasted on printers (Times) and in office cubicles (Umendall) of two information technology firms around New Delhi, India. A third firm (India Mart) does not get the nudge and serves as our control. During the nudge period, employees of the firms that get the conservation message on average expend a significantly lower number of sheets per day as compared to the pre-nudge period, measured both in terms of paper used and paper wasted. Furthermore, after the nudge is removed, the per capita paper wastage for one of the firms that received it (Times) does not increase significantly over the next month and a half, whereas for the other firm (Umendall) it does but remains significantly lower than the per capita wastage in the pre-nudge period. In terms of total paper used, the nudged firms show a reduction in the number of sheets used several weeks after the nudge is removed. For the control firm, the wastage and usage of printer paper does not change significantly over the duration of the experiment. A robustness check with no nudge intervention done by computing per capita wastage and usage for the same dates exactly one year later does not show a reduction over the same time period and offers support for our conclusions.