Contrary to popular belief, 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from household or “lifestyle” consumption, as opposed to government or private sector investment. However, the prevalent focus across policy and regulation has mostly been on industry-oriented technological interventions, without adequately targeting reduction in household consumption of high-emissions goods and services.
Urgently tackling this mammoth yet overlooked challenge requires precipitating sweeping lifestyle changes. Our report on Accelerating India’s Human-Centric Growth proposes an archetype to put ‘Mission LiFE in Action’, in line with the Indian government’s push for Mission LiFE. First announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the COP 26 summit in Glasgow, Mission LiFE is an India-led global mass movement to nudge individual and community action to protect and conserve the environment through pro-planet behaviour.
There is a critical lack of awareness and inadequate incentives for consumers to adopt sustainable lifestyles, although household consumption accounts for 72% of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, the emissions of the richest 1% of the global population account for more than twice the combined share of the poorest 50%. Compliance with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement necessitates reducing consumption emissions to a per capita lifestyle footprint of around 2–2.5 tCO2e by 2030. This implies that the richest 1% need to reduce their current emissions by at least a factor of 30 from their current levels.
Therefore, we propose a digital platform that nudges pro-planet behaviour by linking sustainable lifestyle choices with an incentive structure that reinforces the consumption of green products and services to create a virtuous cycle.
Mobilising a billion-plus citizens to adopt sustainable lifestyles
Our proposed digital platform would create virtual carbon footprints for individual user profiles by linking consumption data tracked across platforms and services to raise awareness among users regarding the consequences of their lifestyles, and compare their carbon footprints (eco-scores) with other users as well as against the UN’s specified benchmark. It would also incentivise pro-planet behaviour by enabling users to unlock exclusive benefits based on their eco-scores. This would help create market access for green products and services, while promoting individual consumption of low carbon alternatives, and encourage the industry to embrace sustainable procurement and production practices.
The potential impacts stretch wide—businesses can leverage sustainability credentials to build customer loyalty, while policymakers gain insights to inform decisions for a just, green transition.
Operationalising the archetype would require synergistically bringing together diverse activities — and thus stakeholders — ranging from developing a scalable technology platform to identifying and onboarding suppliers of green products and services, undertaking audit and certification of emissions, designing incentive mechanisms and onboarding users, amongst other workstreams.
For example, virtual calculators would be required to accurately quantify emission reductions from activities such as using public transport or buying organic produce. Following the design of carbon accounting tools and data infrastructure, a controlled launch with select users and brands would enable refinement before larger dissemination. Robust protocols around privacy and verification would be vital for reliable footprint calculations that drive behaviour change.
This would allow businesses to access authenticated data on lowering supply chain impacts, besides opportunities for green branding and customer retention. Urban bodies would gain insights on shaping emission policies and incentives around transit, waste management and green spaces.
The proposed platform’s voluntary and non-intrusive nature lowers barriers for public adoption. Hyperlocal, context-sensitive outreach leveraging community stakeholders rather than top-down messaging could effectively relay personal relevance to encourage sign-ups. Periodic assessment of non-users through surveys could also inform programme improvement.
Across regions, purpose-driven platforms are cultivating community-wide transformation toward sustainable lifestyles. In Sweden, Klimatkalkylen is empowering households to understand their climate impact and take meaningful mitigation actions. Through incentives and personal recommendations, it makes lower-carbon choices simple and rewarding.
Similarly, CarbonCoop activates homeowners in retrofitting residences to be energy efficient using collaborative finance and expert guidance. By bringing people together in pursuit of carbon reduction, it makes climate-friendly home improvements achievable.
And in the United States, JouleBug ingeniously gamifies sustainable actions, allowing people to have fun while reducing their environmental footprints. Users gain points, recognition, and even local rewards as motivation for constructive lifestyle changes.
The way forward
Our patterns of consumption deeply shape collective outcomes. Facilitating small cumulative changes can precipitate the paradigm shift towards low-carbon living critical to determine our shared future. By incentivising individual choices, the archetype holds immense potential to usher lifestyles aligned with planetary boundaries.
Or contact us to find out how we can help your leaders and organisation create planet-positive and inclusive growth.