Just heard this story from Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO) during a talk he gave at Michigan on Design Thinking.
In Japan, as the Kyoto-Protocol treaty was just being signed, they wanted to proactively lower their energy use. “What are some simple behavioral changes we can make to help lower our carbon footprint?” “How can we get ordinary citizens involved?”
The creative agency hired had identified the temperature of the air conditioning systems in office buildings as being set particularly low during the summer. The reason it was set so low is because Japanese business men insist on wearing formal suits and ties all year round.
The agency reasoned, “if we can convince business men to not wear ties, we’ll be able to reduce the air conditioning systems’ use of energy and therefore our carbon footprint.”
Going ahead, they convinced all the best known Japanese fashion designers to design summer casual clothing. Then, they got the CEOs of all the major corporations in Japan to model the clothes. Because “creating permission” is an important component of Japanese culture (key cultural insight!) they created “cool biz” badges that employees were allowed to wear that gave them permission to wear these new style of clothes.
That year, the campaign estimated a 460,000-ton reduction in CO2 emissions. The following year, 2006, an estimation 1.14 million-ton reduction in CO2 emissions were achieved.