Gamification could be the key to driving sustainability strategies within organisations, by encouraging employees to engage in social competition with each other, rather than seeing corporate environmental initiatives as a chore.
Speaking at the Digital London conference this week, Gerd Leonhard, futurist and CEO of The Futures Agency, said that over the next decade, society needs to make the shift "from Ego to Eco".
"Global warming constitutes the biggest market failure in the history of capitalism," said Leonhard. "The world is over-heated, over-spending and over-crowded, and a continued focus on growth alone may well kill us."
He said that we are now moving from the "age of the network" to the "age of the networked", where the concerns of the masses overtake the concerns of the one percent at the top of the economic pyramid. Leonhard identifies this as a major trend in business, energy and in politics.
"Our entire system of economics and energy used to be based on systems that you had to invest in to build - and those were based on a closed system," he said. "Now, because of the internet, systems are opening up and we can be decentralised. It's no longer important that you own the power plant, because if you have a distributed network of three million wind turbines you can do the same thing."
Building on these ideas, software company CloudApps has created a business application called SuMo (Sustainability Momentum) which leverages the "networked" generation's fascination with gaming and social media to drive enterprise sustainability. This is particularly aimed at businesses that have committed to the the government's CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.
According to CloudApps CEO Peter Grant, most companies' sustainability strategies consist of creating informative posters and sticking them around the office. However, this has very little impact and no longevity, according to Grant.
SuMo is a mobile application that sits on the Salesforce.com platform, and aims to appeal to four main categories of gamers - achievers, explorers, socialisers and killers. Developed in collaboration with Global Action Plan, it works on the basis that employees in a company can earn points and rewards by being more eco-friendly.
Employees are provided with real-time progress updates on their phones or tablets, via scores that indicate if an employee will meet their targets. These might include reducing their carbon footprint, energy consumption, waste, or by inputting the number of hours they have committed to volunteering.
Gamers move up through the levels and gain badges for their virtual trophy cabinet. They can also compare their progress with that of friends and see where they are on a leader board. Organisations can choose how to reward employees that hit their targets - for example, they might offer a bonus, an extra day off, or name them employee of the month.
"For the first time, a consumer-led revolution is leading the business world," said Grant. "What we're doing at CloudApps, effectively, is bringing together social networking, mobility and gamification to solve sustainability issues."
Employees can also get tips on how to meet goals from Global Action Plan and add their own suggestions, on which colleagues can vote. These include steps such as using video conferencing rather than travel, car-pooling schemes or reminding workers to switch off computers overnight.