Behavoiur change can be tricky to implement, so why bother?

Well, if everyone had the same view we wouldn’t get anywhere.  In order to progress and reduce our environmental impact some fundamental changes must take place. We simply can’t continue with our current ‘business as usual’ model.  

This quote summarises the need to change perfectly:

“The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It” Robert Swan

Changes however small can make a huge difference. In your office this may be: ‘removing under-desk bins,’ ‘getting staff to switch off lights and their monitors at the end of the day,’ or ‘encouraging staff to cycle/walk to work.’

The next step is encouraging these changes to happen through behaviour.

Behaviour is defined as:

‘The way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others’

Behaviour is both genetic and environmental. While genetics can’t be changed, the environment can be. We can facilitate behavioural change by creating an environment where people feel comfortable to change.

Green Element’s top tips to initiate behaviour change:

  1. Make it easy

Placing recycling bins in appropriate locations will make it easier for people to recycle. Removing under –desk bins completely makes it very easy indeed. This is because recycling becomes the only option.

  1. Break the barriers

These may include: Social acceptance, habits, financial barriers, the fear of trying something new or situational limits. Consider each of these points when planning a behaviour change initiative.

For example, is it socially acceptable to turn up to a meeting sweaty from a cycle to work? If not, what can be done to avoid this? Can you build shower facilities in the office?

  1. Focus on the audience

Who do you want to change? Different people will react in varying manners. For example, if talking to bankers say recycling will save them money. If talking to social charities show pictures of how limiting contamination will benefit people at recycling facility, who must sort through tons of waste per day.

  1. Get the audience to reach their own conclusion?

If individuals conclude by themselves that changes need to happen, they are more likely to act. Being told what to do can feel patronising. However, if we work it out ourselves, we are more likely to comply.

  1. The use of language 

Make it personal and relevant. For example, ‘the resources we use may run out.’ ‘Recycling can save you money.’  Use language that includes all and always link everything back to the user.

Certain words have connotations that discourage people. For example, ‘environmentalists’ or ‘activists.’ Find out what words should be avoided.

  1. Use social cues

Social norms are the implicit social rules that govern behaviour within a community. Phrases such as; all other tenants in this building currently use renewable energy.

Or, 98% of our staff recycle, rather than 30% of Londoners recycle. Make individuals feel like they are the minority for not making the change. We are social creatures and tend to follow the crowd.

Give credit when due – social media shout outs not only make staff feel proud of their work but encourage others to copy. 

What do you think?

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