Danish grocery giant Coop’s impactful partnership with Krukow Behavioral Design yielded insights for any retailer looking to enlist its customers’ help in reducing food-related carbon emissions.
Coop is a 1000+-store, member-owned grocery retailer founded
and headquartered in Denmark. The popular national food chain has more than
2 million members (almost 1 in 2 Danes above the age of 18 are members!) and
thousands of global suppliers, and provides in-store grocery experiences to more
than 5 million customers every week. As such, it is uniquely positioned in
Denmark to influence sustainable food-shopping behaviors as well as grocery
supply chains worldwide.
The retailer is also hard at work addressing climate change — with an ambitious
target of garnering 50 percent of its Scope 3 emissions reductions linked to the
manufacturing of food via customer behavior change.
In May 2022, the company launched its “Climate Lab” — an initiative for
testing innovative approaches to reducing emissions. The initiative was designed
in phases, with the first phase being undertaken by Coop independently and the
second in partnership with global behavioral science and nudge design experts
As Krukow founder and
CEO Sille Krukow and Coop’s Head of
Climate, Jonas Engberg, recently shared at SB Brand-Led Culture Change, the first phase of the initiative was a single-store experiment that, amongst
other initiatives, involved a total rebranding of the store and introduction of
a new core visual identity — as well as labeling 2,200 of the most
climate-friendly products in the store to show customers the “most impactful”
climate choice across a number of popular product categories. The idea was that
to customers would empower them to make more climate-friendly choices while
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While this initial experiment produced positive results, the Coop team learned
that it needed a more holistic approach to behavior change — which led to the
partnership with Krukow. This second phase — built on learning from the initial
phase and expertise from Krukow — included store-wide interventions built on
strengthening the single, visual vocabulary including vibrant, visual cues and
many small, subtle nudges to guide customers towards more climate-friendly
shopping choices and an overall climate-friendlier store visit.
“If you ask customers what they want, they will tell you they need better
information in order to make better choices. But what they really need is for
their environment to guide them towards these better choices holistically.
Information is part of this, but it’s not enough on its own,” Krukow told Sustainable
In phase two, the group created a “climate journey” through the store that
guided and encouraged shoppers to purchase “more green and less red meat;” and
with numerous small nudges towards climate-friendlier choices, Coop achieved a
remarkable 14 percent reduction in the overall climate impact of shopping
choices across all categories in a mere six months, as well as a 67 percent
reduction in food
Remarkably, customer surveys showed a massive increase in awareness — from 7
percent to 65 percent of customers saying they felt they were being effectively
guided to climate-friendly food choices.
Additionally, store data showed that the results did not skew to one demographic
and that by creating a program that was, in Krukow’s words, “designed for the
rather than for a specific demographic or target market, the interventions were
effective in changing behavior across the board.
Coop found as well that its average shopper basket contains “less meat” on
average than other stores.
A scalable success story
With a huge success in one store under their belt, Krukow and Engberg are now planning to scale their interventions to more stores. The phase-two
program included 94 different, designed behavioral interventions; and the next
step, according to Engberg, is to bring these to more stores.
“Scaling is not a huge cultural challenge for us, because 74 percent of
customers have told us they wish to have more guidance towards climate-friendly
shopping choices,” Engberg told SB. “And because we’ve shown in this initial
pilot that encouraging climate-friendly food choices actually improves the
bottom line, there is minimal resistance in the business.
“Staff at the store have been incredibly enthusiastic and have been essential
co-creators and co-designers, as well,” he added. “They have the knowledge and
the expertise of what works and doesn’t, and what customers want, in their
individual stores. And we have a responsibility to make sure they can speak
confidently to the initiative when customers ask questions like, for example,
‘why are bananas and avocados a climate-friendly choice? Don’t they have to
travel very far?’”
Krukow agreed and emphasized the importance of holistic approaches:
“We’ve shown the power of using a holistic, in-store approach — leveraging
employee expertise; and centered on the overall shopping experience that
includes labeling, point-of-sale interventions, unified signage design and store
layout. We’re excited to see Coop scale these successes across their
By designing these innovative behavior-led strategies, Coop has successfully
engaged customers, improved its brand capital, reduced climate impact across all
scopes, and increased profitability. The scalability of this initiative also
provides a framework for other retailers to adopt — creating another opportunity
to easily enlist consumers’ help to achieve company climate and sustainability