‘I prefer 30°’: business strategies for consumer messages to reduce carbon emissions; an empirical coevolutionary analysis

A series of voluntary business initiatives have been taken in Western Europe since 1997 to persuade consumers to wash their clothes in cooler water. This would contribute to reducing carbon emissions, as well as saving money for consumers, but these initiatives have had limited success. This paper uses a coevolutionary framework (Murmann 2003, 2013; Foxon, 2011) to analyse the factors affecting the relative success of these voluntary business initiatives. This examines the interrelationships between populations of businesses’ branded messages and of user laundry practices. Along with other consumer practices, domestic laundering needs to become substantially less carbon intensive, in order to meet EU policy targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 (from a 1990 base) (European Commission, 2015a). Given that future emission reduction targets are likely to be even stronger, following the 2015 international Paris Agreement on mitigating climate change, it is important to understand better the factors influencing business strategies aiming to influence their customers’ actions in more environmentally friendly directions.