Some thoughts drawn from two Scottish Government reports and MINDSPACE (references below)
Behavioural change is key to improving the sustainability of venues and organisations, because in the end it is individuals who make decisions to act sustainably – or perhaps more accurately, often don’t make sustainable choices. Here are some notes about how we can encourage people to change their behaviour to make our venues more sustainable.
aimed at changing behaviour tend to focus on three key areas:
- a. The individual: these interventions focus on influencing the attitudes of individuals so as to change their behaviour and choices. These might include informing people about why they should switch lights off, reminders to do so and so on.
- b. The social: these interventions focus on the social norms, cultural conventions and shared understandings of practices. Examples include the success of the anti drink-drive campaign which has made it unfashionable to drink and drive in a way that was unheard of 20 years ago; or the good story that putting a sign in the hotel bathroom telling guests that most guests in that room re-use their towels, rather than one that simply asks them to do so, increases re-use rates from 19% to 49%.
- c. The material: these interventions focus on the objects, technologies and infrastructures that both enable and constrain ways of behaving. So providing recycling bins in the right place or good coffee making equipment at work (to avoid take-aways being brought in) will enable people to change their behaviours.
2. It seems that although many interventions aimed at changing behaviour try to work at the individual level, in fact those working at the social level and material level are perhaps more effective. Even more important, those which combine the contexts work best of all. So encouraging change of attitudes of the group whilst also providing the physical cues and means by which people can change their behaviour easily works better than simply trying to change the attitudes or providing the means on their own.
3. Interventions are also more successful when they target points of transition in people’s lives. These are generally described as moving house or having a baby, but for the GVI it might be worth thinking about in smaller terms: the time to ask people to change their behaviour is when they arrive at the venue for the first time from their home base, not when they have been there for a week. Or in the case of one Festival that is upgrading its office, they will take the opportunity when everyone moves back in to have removed their waste bins from under each desk and replaced them with recycling stations.
4. Put these two points together and good planning is emphasised: work out in advance the changes you want people to make, co-ordinate individual and social changes, and prepare the physical infrastructure so that they are easily made (ie make sure you have the recycling stations ready before the move into the venue, and don’t ask people to change their behaviour in advance: do it all at once).
5. A coherent vision also encourages related behavioural changes to be understood and coordinated, so that different behaviours don’t pull in opposite directions. Communicate what the aim is and any coordinated changes as one overarching direction.
6. Using less ‘environmental’ reasons for change may be more effective than solely promoting the environmental reasons: money saving or health for example.
7. Social norms are key – people want to do what other people are doing. This may be one reason why leadership from the top is important, but it is also clear that good messaging is too: emphasising that others are working in the same direction is encouraging; publicising successes, even others’, encourages yet further.
8. Local social norms are even more important: the fact that people in this venue are doing it helps more than if people in that venue are doing it; and the fact that Edinburgh is working on reducing emissions means more than the fact that London is doing so.
9. Making it easy and transparent is important: the moment a change becomes difficult to understand or undertake people will stick with the status quo.
10. The project needs to be a joint one: we are working on this, not you must do it. Again, the importance of leadership by example is clear here. If everyone else takes the train but the Chief Exec or Director flies, the project is doomed.
11. One of the lessons of MINDSPACE is that people tend to ‘go with the flow’, so if the default option is the good one we will tend to follow it, but if the default is the problem one we will go with that. So finding ways to make the default option the right one is important – for example setting the computer so it automatically prints two sheets to a page unless you ask it not to.
INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF BEHAVIOUR CHANGE INITIATIVES: CLIMATE CHANGE BEHAVIOURS RESEARCH PROGRAMME (Dale Southerton, Andrew McMeekin and David Evans) Pub Scottish Govt Feb 2011 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/340440/0112767.pdf
MINDSPACE Influencing Behaviour Through Public Policy pub Institute for Government and The Cabinet Office 2010 http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/content/133/mindspace-influencing-behaviour-through-public-policy