30 Oct 2018

Are you trying to be unique? Stop that immediately!

It is often said we live in the age of individualism, that we are all on our own. But that’s not true. We have each other and together we have the power to create new social norms around sustainability. With this blog post, we aim to inspire you with what we have learned about individualism in relation to behavioral change and sustainability and how to create change. This blog post is written by Ecolabelling Sweden, one of the two very proud "ASAP parents"! 

 

In the Nordic Swan Ecolabel’s report about Nordic consumerisms, Katarina Graffman, doctor of cultural anthropology and an experienced consumer anthropologist, and Jacob Östberg, professor of advertising and PR, argues that an individualistic behavior is something that is appealing to us. The idea that the age of individualism is here and that we no longer are affected by others makes businesses and people feel great. However, this perception of our individualistic behavior is just a myth.

 

Studies have shown that the more individualistic countries are, the more the citizens are depending on their relationships with others. This is because we can’t become ourselves without someone else to relate to. We constantly realize ourselves in association with others. So, when you have a close relationship with a group of people, the importance of how to act in a certain situation becomes increased within the group.

“The idea that the age of individualism is here and that we no longer are affected by others makes businesses and people feel great. However, this perception of our individualistic behavior is just a myth.”

In the report from the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, Per Espen Stoknes, a psychologist with a Ph.D. in economics, argues that the results of people’s actions need to be connected to the social dimension, thus to ourselves or to the people in our vicinity – do I fly more now than I did a year ago? How often do I fly in comparison to my friends? When we do that, we tend to change our behaviour and stick with it. People who are being compared to people in their vicinity tend to change their behavior much more willingly. However, this is not how we tend to think when we want to reach a behavioral change. We often have the idea that information campaigns will lead to a change in our behavior, and sometimes people actually engage in another behavior right after seeing an information campaign. But, after a while, we tend to go back to our usual behavior.

 

What can we learn from this? Instead of seeing it as a big loss that you’re probably not as unique as you might think, try to see it as an opportunity to become a sustainability leader. Don’t underestimate the influence that you as an individual have on the people around you. It’s not only about politicians or big companies to make a change. Each of us is an important piece in the puzzle. So, tell your friends, neighbors, and family about your sustainable actions and let them copy your behavior. And if you don’t have any sustainable actions of your own, don’t worry! You can always copy someone else’s.

 

Forget about individualism! Make the world a sustainable place!

 

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