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Sustainable consumer behaviour : Exploring the role of the government, interventions, and the Interventions Database

Duurzaam consumentengedrag : Verkenning van de rol van de overheid, interventies en de Interventiedatabase


The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment wants consumers to behave in a more environmentally friendly (i.e. more sustainable) manner. The Ministry has therefore asked the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) to analyze if there are any targeted activities or measures (interventions) that are successful in promoting behaviour changes in a target group, starting with a more sustainable diet. A number of criteria for effective interventions were derived from this analysis. For instance, the purpose, target group and methodology of the intervention must be clearly described. In addition, the target group must be involved in developing the intervention. Finally, the intervention must be theoretically substantiated and must be assessed for effectiveness as soon as possible after implementation.

The analysis also revealed that it is useful when the government brings together various stakeholders, initiatives and projects. This promotes an exchange of knowledge, also concerning the quality of the interventions. RIVM was asked to perform this inventory because of its experience in the area of health-promoting interventions, as registered in the Interventions Database (www.loketgezondleven.nl). This database is a useful initial tool for collecting interventions aimed at promoting a sustainable diet.

Using the Interventions Database makes practical sense because it would eliminate the need for setting up a new digital infrastructure, and existing knowledge is optimally used. In addition, measures aimed at promoting an environmentally friendly diet may also have an impact on health. For example, diets in line with healthy diet guidelines are not only healthier but also have lower environmental impacts compared with current eating patterns in the Netherlands. For instance, a higher consumption of tap water instead of bottled or canned sugar containing soft drinks is healthier and less harmful to the environment, since the production and transport of soft drinks consumes more energy than simply drinking tap water.

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