Communication & behaviour

CRED_book_cropped_smEncouraging pro-environmental behaviour and ESG support in organisations is challenging because sustainability is complex and behaviour occurs in a wide range of contexts. Of course different people have different needs, drivers and values and there may be contradictions in behaviours depending on the situation. The research tells us there is no ‘silver bullet’ and that ‘education’ is not sufficient for change. Systems and contextual factors play a major role.

Good planning for change often means understanding your audience, encouraging a participatory approach, building social norms and tailoring strategies to fit the situation. It also means both hard and soft infrastructure to shape individuals and teams with intent and insight.

That is, a combination of well-researched strategies will be needed.

Strategies may go beyond sticks and carrots or carefully framed and delivered ‘sticky’ messaging and using high profile opinion leaders / early adopters (modelling behaviour). Prompts, supports, incentives and disincentives can help in some cases, or even humour. Bear in mind that imposing guilt can backfire unless your particular audience is offered personally relevant, positive, tangible, appealing options which are doable in their situation. If there’s a perception that everyone else is doing it, you can boost your chance of success.

In addition, it’s usually necessary to embed systems and policies such as legislation, physical and social infrastructure or other mechanisms (perhaps needing some advocacy to get it going). Systems help people to fall in line with what is expected and socially accepted as normal and appropriate behaviour (social norms). So despite the barriers, behaviour change, cultural change or social change can be successful in time, especially with the right kind of leadership buy-in and organisational values at the start.

Remember that behaviours and cultures don’t transform in organisations without planning and collaboration to gain buy-in and maintain effort.

[Beware that some people may feel overwhelmed about the urgency of climate-action and there is a large body of research about the importance of emphasising solutions as well as problems to address.]

Short publications:







Guides to community engagement:

Events to watch for about behaviour and sustainability:

More – see also resources on the Getting to Sustainability website under ‘Basics’ and ‘Resources for Sustainability’ including:

Please be in touch if you would like assistance with accessing or developing any research or tailored tools other than what is available here.