No.36 Zero Risk Bias & Shopping Sustainably

No.36 Zero Risk Bias & Shopping Sustainably

Using zero-risk bias can work in en employer's favour when it comes to sustainable shopping.

Zero-risk bias is a tendency to prefer the complete elimination of a risk even when alternative options produce a greater reduction in risk (overall). Zero-risk bias is based on the way people feel better if a risk is eliminated instead of being merely mitigated.

When presented with two options, shoppers will prefer the one that eliminates a small risk completely rather than the one that decreases a large risk exponentially because there is still an element of risk involved. This is because we have a cognitive bias that leads us to crave absolute certitude of outcome when we make decisions. And this bias is absolutely key in relation to the subject of sustainability.

Irrationally, we prefer a few guaranteed benefits rather than the possibility of much more significant benefits. Talk of small but guaranteed steps you’ve taken more than how your inching towards being carbon neutral in many years time.

When it comes to shoppers and shopping, zero-risk bias has numerous potential applications.

100% risk free

If you can attach a zero-risk quality to your sustainability campaigns then customers are more likely to make a purchase - and to choose yours over other options that may contain an element of risk. 

Seeking the magic ‘0’

When asked whether they would prefer the option that decreased risks from 5 to 0% or from 50 to 25%, people overwhelmingly chose the former despite the fact that the decrease in risk is nowhere near as significant. What sustainability claims can you make that involve ‘0’?

Charge for less risk

Present your products in such a way as to make them appear much more desirable due to the zero-risk bias. Offer two similar products, one that is better environmentally but doesn't have any solid guarantees about performance, and another that is more expensive but offers a cast-iron sustainability related guarantee. Shoppers are more likely to opt for the more expensive option because they feel as though there is no purchasing risk attached.

Zero-risk bias plays on human fear of the uncertain. Because we all want to know our future. One which is filled with success, we try to eliminate as many of the known environmental risks we can think of as possible.

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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