Encouraging sustainable behaviour

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There is now a great deal of information available about how to promote sustainable behaviours – but it can be confusing identifying the evidence that really matters.

This comprehensive collection of climate change communication resources provides a clear, straightforward and practical list of the many guides and handbooks that promote sustainable behaviours among individuals and communities, and this section contains an outline of the key findings from studies of public perceptions of climate change.

Talking Climate also contains a series of more focused summaries of research on specific aspects of sustainable behaviour. Targeting social networks is an important but often neglected method of influencing sustainable behaviour. This guide describes the best research on how to use social networks and social norms to encourage not only individuals but groups and communities to engage in more sustainable patterns of behaviour.

The predicted effects of climate change are scary – but there is now a solid body of research that shows that ‘scare tactics’ only work under certain conditions. This guide explains when using the fear of future problems works for motivating sustainable behaviours, and when it doesn’t.

Lots of behaviours do not involve conscious decisions – they are habits, which means they can be tricky to change. But one area of psychological research on how to break bad habits and create new ones provides crucial guidance for targeting behaviours that are not ‘deliberate’.

One strategy for promoting sustainable behaviours is known as ‘social marketing’. Social marketing uses insights from marketing and applies them to pro-social behaviour. This guide explains what social marketing has to offer, but also points out some of the drawbacks of this approach and outlines different strategies that go beyond social marketing. Talking Climate also contains a section focusing specifically on the approach taken by the UK government in attempting to influence sustainable behaviour – based largely on social marketing prinicples.

A new approach that goes beyond social marketing – and is rapidly growing in popularity – starts from the idea that changing behaviours is impossible unless you begin with people’s personal values. All campaigns speak to certain values, and all messages are framed in a particular way. Getting to grips with the right values and frames for promoting sustainable attitudes and behaviours is essential for any climate change communicator.

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This website, a project of Climate Outreach (COIN), has been integrated into the new Climate Outreach website. Any updates since 21 October 2015 have been made to the new website only, not here, and this website will soon be deleted. Please bookmark our new website – we look forward to continuing to share the latest in climate communication research with you. We are now tweeting from @climateoutreach so please follow us there.