Massey paper m_field_and_j_tunna_09 final


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This is a paper that Joanne Tunna and myself wrote and presented at the Massey University Sustainability Conference on behavioural change.

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Massey paper m_field_and_j_tunna_09 final

  1. 1. Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? by Michael Field and Joanne Tunna Introduction Drawing on the findings from extensive international research and interviews with some of New Zealand’s leading Public Relations, Communication and Marketing experts, this paper explores some of the key drivers, both positive and negative, for behavioural change and what it means to be successful in these fields. The paper explores the ‘golden rules’ associated with behavioural change campaign, with the aim of encouraging sustainability campaigners to reassess how these campaigns are designed and delivered in order to achieve greater success. We also explore some of the ways in which the human mind works and responds to different pressures and how Cognitive Dissonance Theory plays a role in basic human psychology. Numerous topics present themselves for further consideration, though due to time and space constraints, many of these are not discussed in any great detail within this paper. Recommendations and conclusions are provided, with recognition that this is a crucial, yet enormously under-researched area and that there is huge scope for future work in any number of aspects addressed within this paper. What is Sustainability? Sustainability is far from being a new concept, having been around since the mid 1970’s, notably through ‘The Natural Step’ developed in Sweden by Dr Karl-Henrik Robèrt. More recently, the Bruntland Commission’s report ‘Our Common Future’, published in 1987, defined sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”. Although the Bruntland definition has arguably become the most widely used, the debate about what sustainability is and what it is not most certainly continues. The Bruntland definition has maintained durability, in part, due to its all-encompassing nature, which leaves it open to interpretation. While it usefully provides a broad context, the definition has several fundamental flaws. Firstly, it makes no distinction between meeting our most basic needs, and being in a position from which to thrive and prosper. Our societal values, political systems and understanding of the Earth and its natural systems are all in a state of constant fluidity. Consequently it is highly presumptuous to expect to know, beyond a basic needs level, what conditions and resources future generations will require in order to thrive. Perhaps most importantly, the Bruntland definition fails to address the ‘how’ factor. That is, how we translate sustainability, as a concept, into something practical and useful for sustainable outcomes. At best, the definition is a good starting point, as beyond this there is uncertainty and disagreement. Besides the Bruntland definition, there are quite possibly as many other definitions for sustainability as there are different groups and individuals attempting to define it. What is most important is that we do not allow prolonged and undue focus on vague and contested definitions to become a justification for inaction. For the purposes of this paper, we define sustainability as: living within the Earth’s carrying capacity, understanding and working to the complex and interconnectedness of the economy, society, and the environment, and finally, the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities on a national and global scale. Living within the Earth’s carrying capacity requires an acknowledgement of the Earth as a self- contained and finite system. To ensure the continuation of human existence as we know it, we must ensure that the global population can support itself indefinitely by the quantity of renewable and non-renewable resources available within the Earth’s supporting ecosystems. The concept of carrying capacity extends beyond the environmental realms to human, social and built capital, Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 1 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  2. 2. which means that factors such as education, social interaction and infrastructure require adequate consideration alongside environmental issues if societies are to achieve truly sustainable outcomes (Sustainability Measures: 2009). Our ability to operate within the Earth’s carrying capacity is dependant on resource availability, population size and growth and the rate of resource consumption per capita. To provide a current context, the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment revealed that approximately two thirds of ecosystem services have been subject to degradation or are currently subject to unsustainable use. According to the Ecological Footprint, illustrated below, the global population has been living beyond its means since 1987 and ‘humans are now using the equivalent of 1.25 planets’ worth of resources’ (The Worldwatch Institute: 2009). Source: The Worldwatch Institute: Vital Signs 2009 – The Trends That Are Shaping Our Future Although there is little argument that society, the economy and the environment are all integral components of sustainability, the way they are addressed in relation to one another can produce vastly different outcomes and highlights further discrepancy. The diagram on the left below arranges each aspect with the assumption that they are of equal relative importance. In the diagram on the right, often termed the ‘Strong Sustainability’ model, society and the economy are identified as sub elements of the environment, upon which they are entirely dependent. Source: Sustainability Measures, ‘An Introduction Sustainability’ Finally, achieving global equity in the distribution of resources is a key component in defining sustainability. Although intergenerational equity is explicit in the Bruntland definition, the ever widening disparity between the developed and developing world is an immensely complex and crucial factor that underpins our ability to achieve truly sustainable outcomes. What Are We Hoping to Achieve? At this point, it is important to establish exactly what outcomes we actually desire in choosing to instigate behavioural change. Regardless of behaviour change methodology or the specific actions proposed and projected on various audiences, we would argue that ultimately, the desired outcome is the same. We are fuelled, in our combined efforts, by our desire to sustain our existence on planet Earth. The Natural Step Framework outlines four systems conditions, which underpin the journey to a sustainable society and are particularly useful in defining the scope of sustainability- related behavioural change. Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 2 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  3. 3. The four systems conditions are as follows (Grassroots Recycling Network: 2009): 1. Substances extracted from the Earth’s crust do not systematically increase in the biosphere. This means not extracting fossil fuels, metals, and other minerals at a faster rate than they are naturally re-deposited into the Earth’s crust. 2. Substances produced by society do not systematically increase in the biosphere. This means not producing chemicals and compounds at a faster rate than they can be broken down in nature. It requires greatly decreasing the production of naturally occurring substances that, at present, are accumulating beyond safe and natural levels as well as phasing out persistent synthetic substances not naturally occurring in nature. 3. Biodiversity and the Earth’s productive capacity are not degraded by physical means. This requires critically examining our means of harvesting renewable resources, and ensuring that our consumption levels and land-use practices are well within the regenerative capacities of ecosystems. 4. Resources must be distributed and utilised fairly and efficiently allowing all human kind to meet their needs. The four systems conditions merely set the parameters for a sustainable future, leaving an exact blueprint of what the future looks like undefined. Maintaining a focus on this broad and common goal is useful in the planning and implementation of behaviour change projects and in ensuring resilient behavioural change outcomes. Despite having identified the ultimate goal of sustainability-related behavioural change campaigns, within the Natural Step Framework there are vast differences in the nature, scope and course of action. Firstly, we can differentiate campaigns by the size and scope of the desired behaviour change. Is the campaign aiming to protect a clearly defined area of native vegetation or to reduce deforestation on a global scale? This raises some interesting questions around the method of engagement and how likely various audiences are to engage with small scale, tangible issues versus global, more conceptual issues. There are distinctions between individual action and collective behavioural change and whether the action sought produces an actual result, or whether the action is intended to translate into collective public opinion and eventually reach the agenda of political decision-makers. The way in which messages are packaged and conveyed by specific groups is another contributor to how they are received by the desired audience. More specifically, how recipients decipher the level of importance, where the issue fits within the ‘bigger picture’ and ultimately, whether or not they are mobilised into action. “Viewed from the constructionist lens, the study of social problems does not result in a focus on objective conditions per se, but rather on values, labels, strategies and the interests of claims- making individuals and groups, the goal of which is to influence the public will in hopes of garnering political resources to remedy the social condition described as problematic” (Salmon and Post et al: 2003). This point is particularly pertinent to environmental issues, in that any change inflicted on the natural environment, be it positive or negative, is just that - a physical manifestation of change. It is not until scientists, policy makers, environmentalists, or some other group or individual defines change in relation to, and the perceived repercussions for, society that they become an issue. Given the breadth and complexity of sustainability, a thorough exploration of the desired outcomes is required in the preliminary stages of a project in order to effectively cause change. As noble and well meaning it is to plunge into action, a common error in many sustainability-related projects is failing to spend enough time defining the desired outcome and the action required to reach that point. Back-casting is a planning method in which “a successful outcome is imagined in the future, followed by the question: “what do we need to do today to reach that successful outcome?”(The Natural Step: 2009). There is no one scenario for a sustainable society and while strategic planning is important, creating overly specific scenarios may limit innovation and the creative thinking that Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 3 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  4. 4. are essential for sustainable development. Rather than attempting to develop a rigid blueprint of what the future must look like, back-casting is guided by the four principles outlined above, while leaving room for ongoing strategic planning in the context of the complex and unpredictable natural and social systems in which we operate. It is basically impossible to predict how natural and social systems will behave when we do not have a comprehensive understanding of how they operate. This begs the question of why we would want to predict the future under current conditions, when we have the power to create an even better future. All of this creates a complex and in-depth picture; however, one must not lose sight of the ultimate outcome of sustainability-related campaigns - to cause positive and effective behaviour change. More specifically, shifts in behaviour, where our actions positively contribute to the wellbeing of natural systems or reduce the negative impact of our past, current and future actions on natural systems. Merely engaging in education and the dissemination of information may generate interest and raise awareness; however, ensuring sustainable outcomes hinges on effectively bringing about widespread behaviour change. Understanding the Rules of Public Relations, Communications and Marketing In order to better understand the principles associated with both successful and unsuccessful campaigns aimed at behavioural change, we conducted interviews with some of the most respected and experienced Public Relations, Communications and Marketing practitioners in New Zealand. Their combined knowledge provided invaluable insights into the common elements associated with successful and unsuccessful campaigns. An extremely large number of topics were raised during the interview process, most of which warrant further investigation. Due to time, space and resource constraints, we have identified those elements that were common to all interviews, for brief discussion within this paper. We have also noted additional topics, with brief explanations of what they cover, in the hope that further research and investigation eventuates and forms a more complete picture of the important issues for consideration. The common elements in all interviews relate to the ‘golden rules’ that the practitioners adhere to, in order to ensure the success of the campaigns they are involved with. The commonalities relate to a number of sub-topics that are listed below. Covered within this paper: • Market segmentation - The identification of the various sections of any given audience. • Tailoring messages to specific market segments - How messages and campaigns are tailored to meet the specific ‘drivers’ of each identified market segment. • Understanding the ranges of human engagement - Categorising people into five distinct groups of engagement level assists in identifying which engagement group to ‘market’ to. • Human psychology and Cognitive Dissonance - Understanding the impacts of different messages on human behaviour. Not covered within this paper although worthy of further research and investigation: • Monetary drivers - How people respond to different monetary drivers. This covers items such as ‘cash-back’ versus ‘savings’. Humans perceive ‘cash-back’ as having a higher value even if the value of the ‘savings’ and ‘cash-back’ are identical. Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 4 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  5. 5. • Common messages - This was discussed in some depth during the interview process and the lack of it is a significant barrier to sustainability messaging, given the contradictory messages delivered through a variety of channels. • The difference between ‘one-time’ behaviour and ‘ongoing’ behavioural change - Understanding the significant difference between the approaches and challenges associated with marketing for a onetime action and ongoing behavioural change. This is an extremely important aspect of any campaign, requiring different approaches to be taken. • The role of legislation - One aspect that came through the interview process with N. Baylis and J.Smart from M&C Saatchi (personal communication. 14 October 2009) was the need to have both a ‘carrot’ and a ‘stick’ to trigger wide-scale behavioural change. However, the ‘stick’ of legislation is generally outside of the area of influence for most people putting together sustainability campaigns. • The role of a ‘champion’ - This covers the opportunities associated with identifying and engaging with champions on sustainability-related topics. This is particularly important when ongoing behavioural change is desired. One example of this was given by L. Cunningham from Farrimond and the Ministry of Health (personal communication. 8 October 2009), where sustainability education is delivered to children in Primary School. Once these children understand the actions that should be taken to minimise environmental impacts, they tend to take these beliefs and opinions home and share them with their parents, effectively becoming an ongoing voice for positive behavioural change within the home. Market Segmentation Possibly the strongest message that came through the interview process was the absolute necessity to segment an audience or market, enabling messages to be tailored specifically to each group. It was stated by all interviewees that in their opinion the single largest mistake sustainability campaigns have made in the past is using the ‘scatter-gun’ approach, or effectively trying to communicate to all market segments at the same time, using the same channels. The issue with this, is that any message that appeals to one market segment is unlikely to appeal to any other and could even potentially cause them to react negatively or ‘turn them off’. To avoid the risk of this occurring and to raise the level of effectiveness of any campaign, the interviewees agreed that in-depth market research was needed to ensure that a clear understanding of each market segment was achieved. Although this research has not been carried out specific to sustainability behavioural change campaigns, J. Dryden and M.McKay from Star Public Relations (personal communication. 8 October 2009) suggested that similar research previously carried out for other campaigns segmented markets based on different indicators depending on the type of messaging and outcomes desired. These indicators include physical location, level of education, socio-economic indicators or cultural background. Different communication methods are required for each segment. Market segmentation research for sustainability-related campaigns would signify a significant piece of work; however experts agree that this research would deliver significant rewards and identify many opportunities for the sustainability movement. Tailoring Messages to Specific Market Segments Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 5 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  6. 6. The importance of specifically tailoring messages was repeatedly stressed by all interviewees, based on an understanding of what triggers will work for each market segment. An excellent example of this came through the interview with Graham Bethune from the Ministry of Health on their cervical cancer screening campaign. This campaign was aimed at increasing the number of Maori and Pacific Island women undergoing cervical cancer screening. G. Bethune (personal communication. October 14, 2009) explained that these specific two segments were chosen because of lower levels of uptake in cervical cancer screening in those populations. The messages delivered to each group were specifically tailored, based on in-depth research, including interviews with women from each group to ascertain what motivated them, what ‘flicked their switches’ and what engaged them. In the case of Pacific Island women, there was a strong positive response relating to family, sense of community and humour. This led to light-hearted advertising and marketing, suggesting that Pacific Island women should go along for screening as a group and make an outing of the experience. Conversely, Maori women were more motivated by ‘straight talking’, ‘tell us like it is’ messaging and real life stories from other Maori women, with whom they could easily relate. This prompted the construction and delivery of a very different message, showing individual Maori women talking about their own experiences with cervical cancer, explaining how the cervical cancer screening had saved their lives and urging other women to undergo screening. Although this was not delivered in a light-hearted way, Maori women responded extremely well to it, as it had been designed with their specific drivers in mind. Both segments had a very strong response to family and community, and messages were therefore also aimed at the males in their lives – predominantly their husbands and sons. This was a conscious decision to increase the level of internal household pressure for these women to undergo screening and effectively achieved a strong response from Maori and Pacific Island women (National Social Marketing Centre: 2009). This successful campaign delivers a strong message and opportunity to sustainability behavioural change programmes, that of the importance of having ‘internal champions’ for your cause. Being able to identify people within a household that will be the ongoing voice for your messaging can be a driver of ongoing behaviour change. One issue with sustainability-focussed campaigns is that the messages tend to be designed and written by people who are passionate about environmental issues, and are therefore written in language that engages other people from that same market segment. Other sustainability-focussed people are extremely likely to respond positively to these messages, as it is generally packaged in language they respond well to and the messages are likely to be aligned to their existing behaviours. But this particular group only make up a very small percentage of the overall population, and although the messaging may very well work for them, it is likely to deliver very different and potentially contrary results from the remainder of the population. Another important aspect is to carefully choose the delivery method for any communication specific to each market segment. J. Dryden and M. McKay (personal communication. 8 October 2009) noted that it is generally established during the market segmentation stage what each segment watches on television, where they get their news and who they listen to and respect, enabling messages to be delivered in a far more focussed fashion. There is however, one other advantage to this kind of targeted approach with messaging, and that is the reduced likelihood that people from other market segments will see these messages, preventing the opportunity for them to disengage. Examples of tailored messages can be seen every day on television, by which time slots different businesses choose for their advertising based on which market segments are watching the programmes. Similarly, through which newspapers they choose to advertise in based on who reads Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 6 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  7. 7. them. This is very clearly an industry standard for messaging and it would therefore seem highly logical for the sustainability movement to abide by these same rules. The Ranges of Human Engagement Once the audience has been segmented, by whichever method is deemed appropriate, it is then crucial to acknowledge the ranges of human engagement and the importance of recognising this when identifying the best audience for any campaign. The Gallup Organisation’s engagement ratio identifies three separate groups categorised by their level of engagement. They are Engaged, Disengaged and Actively Disengaged. Similarly, we would argue that human engagement can be broken down into five groups, from those easiest to influence to those least easy to influence. Each of these areas identifies different people’s attitudes towards any messaging and the likelihood and level of their resulting engagement, as follows: 1. Actively Engaged This group tend to be highly energised, highly motivated and passionate people. They are eager to understand a wide range of topics and are generally pleased to be involved in programmes or activities that they have a strong belief in. Not surprisingly, this group tend to make up the majority of the leaders of groups engaged in behavioural change programmes and are also highly likely to be vocal about gaining support for their areas of passion, advocating for those in the Engaged Group to join them and are a relatively easy group to influence, if they agree with the programme’s core values. However, it is extremely hard to convince this group to move into another category, and if they do they do so in only one direction, to the Engaged Group. 2. Engaged This group are a slightly less ‘intense’ version of the first group. They are interested in understanding a wide range of topics and are generally happy to be involved in behavioural change programmes, although less likely to take on a leadership role and will be less forceful in trying to gain support and involvement from those in the Neutral Group. This group is able to be and just as likely to be convinced to move one category in either direction. 3. Neutral As the name would suggest, this group is made up of those that are neither engaged or disengaged, but have a tendency to swing between the two depending on the topic, their personal level of interest and who is influencing them at the time. They are also unlikely to try and gain support or influence other groups to their way of thinking, as their opinions and views are not strongly set. This group is likely to be the easiest convince to move one category in either direction. 4. Disengaged This group is less likely to become involved in any programme voluntarily. They have a lower level of interest and it is difficult to convince them of the importance or worth of any campaign. They are also less likely to try and persuade those in the neutral group to their way of thinking. This group is able to be and just as likely to be convinced to move one category in either direction, in this case to either the Neutral or the Actively Disengaged Groups. 5. Actively Disengaged This group is the pole opposite of the Actively Engaged Group, but they share some of the same characteristics. This group is also high energy and tend to be passionate about their views and opinions, the fundamental difference being that their views have a tendency towards the negative where they are actively trying to block change, rather than the positive. They tend to have very strong views on subjects and are just as likely as Actively Engaged people to try and gain support for their views. This group tends to be made up of the strong sceptics, those that do not believe or naturally take an opposing stance to whatever belief the Strongly Engaged group have. It is extremely hard to convince this group to move into another category and if they do they have only one direction to go, into the Disengaged Group. Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 7 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  8. 8. A particular aspect to note is the number of people within each segment, which is important to recognise when deciding which segment to focus attention on, or where to get the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ (shown in Table 1). Table 1 It is clear from this graph that the group most worthy of spending effort on are those that are in the Neutral Group, rather than those that are either in the Actively Engaged or Actively Disengaged Groups. The Neutral Group contains far more people and consequently the impact of positive behavioural change will be far greater, as well as being naturally inclined towards being the easiest to sway. However, it is very important not to risk alienating any particular group. It is ultimately a numbers game and, as has been discussed, it is easy to have a negative impact on an audience that is not being specifically targeted, through the language used in messaging. Not only does it make logical sense to cater for the group with the largest number of people, it also decreases the risk associated with negative responses, assuming that the messaging has been designed correctly. An example of this is to look at marketing to the Actively Engaged Group. Although the chances of success are higher, given this group’s natural disposition, it also vastly increases the number of people who may be alienated if they too are subject to the same messages. The same would apply for the Actively Disengaged Group, not only from the point of view of sheer numbers at risk, but also that the majority of marketing will be ineffective regardless of how well it is tailored due to the natural inclination of this group. Clearly from a risk perspective, the Neutral Group offers the most advantageous opportunity. Not only are they the most numerous, but they are also inclined to be the easiest to sway. Human Psychology and Cognitive Dissonance The importance of human psychological responses has not traditionally been recognised in the area of sustainability-related behavioural change programmes and messaging. Subsequently this can, and has, had negative impacts on the behavioural responses seen within society, obviously quite contrary to the responses originally envisioned through these sustainability programmes. Although human psychology is a vast and complicated field of expertise, the area of Cognitive Dissonance Theory is more relevant to behavioural drivers than others. Festinger (1957) deals with the psychological response observed when humans recognise an inconsistency between their beliefs and opinions (cognitions) and their behaviours and actions. When these two elements do not align (dissonance), humans experience stress and in order to alleviate this stress they must change either the belief or the behaviour. This theory is not widely recognised within the sustainability behavioural change movement and where it is, it seems to have been severely misinterpreted. In many sustainability-related Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 8 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  9. 9. campaigns, it is assumed that people will opt to change their behaviour when an inconsistency is highlighted to them, ensuring that it more closely aligns with their beliefs. However, there are four options for a person to reduce the stress associated with Cognitive Dissonance: 1. reduce the importance of the conflicting belief; 2. acquire new beliefs that more closely match the behaviour; 3. remove the conflicting belief, or; 4. remove the conflicting behaviour. Unfortunately, as in a great deal of international research, the belief that people will change their behaviours is actually quite contrary to research findings. It is, in fact, far easier and usual for someone to change their belief to match their behaviour than the other way around. A very simple example related to sustainability is to imagine a person who has recently purchased a new sports car, but also strongly believes in climate change and that society should do everything it can to reduce its emissions. At this stage, their beliefs and their behaviour do not align. As long as they remain unaware of this misalignment they will experience no dissonance or resulting stress. If, on the other hand, somebody points out to them that their belief is in conflict with their behaviour, since their car can hardly be regarded as efficient, either their belief in climate change or their car must change. Most sustainability campaigns assume that the person in question would decide to sell their new sports car in favour of a highly fuel efficient vehicle that more closely aligns with their beliefs; however, in reality, this is highly unlikely to occur. Their resulting actions may vary, as they may downplay the significance they place on climate change to reduce the dissonance or change their belief altogether and decide that climate change remains unproven and until it is, they may choose to remain neutral. To expect them to change their behaviour, in this case their car, is highly unlikely in most cases. It is an unfortunate fact that most sustainability-related education and awareness raising programmes and campaigns have tended to focus on pointing out the negative ramifications of undesirable behaviour, in the hope that people will understand what behaviours they need to change and do so. It is clear from the study of Cognitive Dissonance Theory that it is vitally important to examine the messages we have used if we are to effectively drive positive behavioural change. It has been assumed that by educating people on environmental issues they will become aware of the need to change their behaviours and do so willingly; however, Cognitive Dissonance Theory would suggest that this may not be the case and that we may, inadvertently, be causing people to negatively change their beliefs rather than positively adjusting their behaviour. But Is Education Enough? An important question to explore is whether having heightened knowledge about a particular issue, or set of issues, makes us more likely to change our behaviour. Numerous research studies have reported ‘problem awareness’ as being a strong determinant in the degree of uptake in sustainability-related behavioural change campaigns. Likewise, lack of knowledge is frequently sighted as an obstacle to uptake (Awake: 2009). Whilst education and awareness raising are crucial to the success of any campaign, two fundamental points to consider are the type of information disseminated and ensuring that there is an emphasis on subsequent strategies through which to bring about change. While we agree that we need to provide people with information to impress upon them the importance of individual action towards sustainable outcomes, ensuring that we disseminate the right kind of information is crucial. Broadly speaking, knowledge and information can be divided into two types: abstract and concrete. As the name suggests, ‘abstract’ information is conceptual, aimed at broad-level awareness raising and ‘acts as an important precursor to activate our sense of moral responsibility to act’ (Awake: 2009). ‘Concrete’ information is of a practical ‘how-to’ nature, giving us what we need to effectively guide our behaviour. Tolerance, as well as preference Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 9 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  10. 10. for different forms of information, will inevitably vary between individuals and groups. Individuals with differing backgrounds, education and learning style will respond differently to information and messaging. It is hardly practical to cater to individual needs on a one-on-one basis. As a general rule, campaigns should provide enough abstract knowledge to satisfy those individuals for whom detail is key, whilst ensuring that the tangible and immediately relevant information is captured and communicated clearly for the entire audience. ’Abstract’ and ‘concrete’ information both play a vital role in any campaign; however, in and of themselves, they are insufficient as behavioural change agents. Education and awareness raising around a particular issue, as strategies on their own, are highly unlikely to induce behavioural change. As illustrated in the model below, abstract information is required initially in order to transition from ‘Pre-Contemplation’ to ‘Contemplation’, followed by concrete information in the ‘Preparation’ stage. Transitioning from ‘Preparation’ into ‘Action’ however is a complex step in which many factors are at play, including perceived risk and opportunity for personal gain, the amount of effort required, level of complexity and timeframes, as well a person’s social, cultural and ethical background and associated pressure. The Behaviour Change Spiral Source: Victorian Government: Sustainable Transport – TravelSmart, ‘Theories and Models of Behaviour Change’ Unfortunately, the downfall of many campaigns is that they fail to go beyond pure information dissemination and project a compelling call to action. An example of this is the Greenpeace NZ ‘Sign On’ campaign which is discussed in the next section. A Look at Some Campaigns, With an Eye on the ‘Golden Rules’ In order to demonstrate and understand the commonalities between different programmes, we will examine two national sustainability education campaigns, one aimed at energy efficiency and the other at climate change, with specific reference to areas we perceive as being misaligned with the previously identified ‘golden rules’: Energy Efficiency Energy efficiency is one aspect of the environmental education movement that is currently receiving a great deal of focus within New Zealand, with particular effort being made by the Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 10 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  11. 11. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).The main messages, sourced from the EECA website’s homepage are: • Being energy efficient, and using as much of our abundant renewable energy resources as we can, benefits all New Zealanders. • We save money - as individuals and as a country, we have a more secure energy system, and we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. • We also get to enjoy warmer, healthier homes, develop more profitable and competitive businesses and strengthen our international reputation. In this way, the ongoing programme, aimed at reducing energy demand through efficient use of energy, clearly states its ‘case’ for energy efficiency. It explains the case for the country and also the case for the individual, by way of monetary savings and increased health benefits. The website also offers funding for energy efficient technologies, including insulation. In recent years EECA has seen an increase in the number of applicants seeking funding; however, it is important to look at the trend of energy use within New Zealand, to establish the success of this programme. National population projections show a medium average increase from 4,184,600 in 2006 to an estimated 4,371,000 in 2011, an increase of 4.4 per cent (Statistics New Zealand: 2009). Energy demand, however, shows an actual increase from 36,343GWh in 1998 to 42,245GWh in 2008, an increase of 16.2 per cent (Ministry of Economic Development: 2009). These figures show that the demand for energy within New Zealand continues to rise at a rate far higher than the rate of population growth. It may be that some small reduction has been realised through this programme and that the overall energy demand figure could have been higher; however, it is clear that much more needs to be done to engage society in energy efficiency and trigger the behavioural changes required to actively drive down energy demand. In this case, it would seem that the ‘education and awareness’ raising has been done, but that the further steps required to trigger behavioural change have not. This example demonstrates that awareness and knowledge, in and of itself, does not, in fact, lead to behavioural change. The uptake of home insulation has increased, due to the government funding being offered; however, this signifies a one-off behaviour, not ongoing behaviour. Although this one-off behaviour will deliver energy savings, a greater opportunity exists if these principles are able to be triggered in an ongoing fashion. Climate Change Greenpeace New Zealand’s ‘Sign On’ campaign is aimed at convincing New Zealanders to sign a petition to the government to strengthen the national commitment towards reducing the CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) emissions to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2020. As of the 15th October 2009, over 130,000 New Zealanders have signed the petition, certainly a strong result (Sign On: 2009). The campaign clearly demonstrates and communicates its aims and goals, which are to get a high number of New Zealanders to sign the petition. As this only requires individuals to take a specific one-off action, intended to generate collective public opinion and successfully lobby for change at a national policy level, it would be reasonable to expect that the number of signatories would be sizable. Though successful from a statistical perspective, in focussing on a specific one-off action, the campaign has, to some degree, wasted an opportunity to incorporate subsequent actions and stimulate long-term sustainable behavioural change. The ‘Sign On’ campaign does not require ongoing or longer term behavioural change, making the outcomes far easier to achieve. Furthermore it is evident from the homepage directory that the ‘Sign On’ campaign focuses very much on the high level issues associated with climate change which as discussed above, is an insufficient means of stimulating change. All of the actions on the ‘Sign On’ website under the ‘How Can I Help’ menu are specifically related to political campaigning around the petition itself rather than how groups and individuals can make longer term sustainable choices. Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 11 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  12. 12. In order to raise awareness of the ‘Sign On’ campaign, Greenpeace has gained the promotional support of sixteen well known New Zealand celebrities, including Lucy Lawless, Rhys Darby, Geoff Ross, Stephen Tindall, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Robyn Malcolm. These celebrities have been heavily involved in all associated promotional activity, which has led to a great response and sign up rate, as well as increasing the campaigns level of recognition within New Zealand. This approach raises the issue of trying to market to all market segments at once. Although it is true, that out of the sixteen celebrities involved, there is a very good chance that at least one of them will engage each market segment, marketing them all at once also guarantees that most of the others will not engage any one market segment. This runs the risk of alienating individual market segments, as each segment will not only be impacted by the celebrity most appropriate to them, but all of them simultaneously. It is, unfortunately, human nature to focus on negative rather than positive aspects, and in most cases this 'mass marketing' approach to celebrity use not only delivers one reason to engage, but possibly 15 reasons not to. Recommendations and Conclusions It is clear from the research carried out for this paper that triggering positive sustainability-related behavioural change is a significant challenge. It is also clear, however that there are some fundamental rules that must be followed to offer the greatest chance of success. It is suggested that sustainability campaign designers follow the basic guidelines set out below: • Market segmentation plays a critical role in behavioural change campaigns, allowing the design and delivery of targeted communications to market segments individually, as well as allowing the market segments offering the greatest positive outcome to be targeted first. It is also important to recognise the ranges of engagement at this stage, ensuring that any market segment being considered is predominantly made up of those that are neutral from the outset. • Tailoring messages to these specific market segments is also extremely important, significantly raising the chances of success, but also minimising the chances of messages being negatively received. • Delivering the ‘how to’ message allows the audience to not only to fully understand the issue, but also what they are able to do about it, raising the chance of behavioural change. • Ensure that messages are not ‘guilt based’ or ‘preachy’ in nature. This has a tendency to trigger Cognitive Dissonance, which will ultimately lead to either negative behavioural change or negative belief system change. • Ensure that messages, once specifically tailored to a market, are delivered to them directly through channels that they predominantly tap into. This requires a sound understanding of what media channels different market segments have chosen to align themselves with. If campaigns are choosing spokespeople, it is important to understand the specific market being communicated with, with regard to whom they listen to, who they trust and who they relate to. • Look to engage on an ongoing basis, as opposed to one-off behaviours. This will deliver far greater outcomes and lead to far broader changes in social acceptance of sustainable behaviours. As previously stated, there is a great deal of information that we have not delved into to any significant level. All of these topic areas are worthy of further in-depth research in order to fully understand all aspects of positive behavioural change. These topics relate to areas such as: • Understanding how monetary drivers engage and encourage positive behaviour, and the different approaches that deliver the greatest outcomes. • Ensuring messages are common and free of contradictions. • Understanding the different approaches required for on-off and ongoing behavioural change. Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 12 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  13. 13. • Understanding the role that legislation can play in widespread behavioural change campaigns, relating to the drivers associated with both positive and negative reinforcement. • The importance of having ‘champions’ for ongoing behavioural change. Once all of the topics identified had been researched, we expect that a clearer picture would emerge of exactly what topics and aspects of behavioural change need to be considered, possibly leading to a behavioural change campaign ‘road map’. This type of resource would be extremely valuable to the sustainability behavioural change movement, allowing them a single source of information. In the absence of this type of documentation, it is clear that Public Relations, Marketing and Communications practitioners can add significant value to any campaign, providing guidance from a campaign’s inception through to final delivery. Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 13 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  14. 14. References What is Sustainability? Sustainability Measures, ‘An Introduction to Sustainability’ <> 3 October 2009. E.Assadourian, Global Economic Growth Continues at Expense of Ecological Systems. The WorldWatch Institute: Vital Signs 2009 - The Trends That Are Shaping Our Future, 2009 pp.67. What Are We Hoping to Achieve? Grassroots Recycling Network: Zero Waste, ‘The Natural Step’s Four Systems Conditions’ <> 1 October 2009. Salmon, C.T., Post, L.A., Christensen, R.E. Mobilizing Public Will for Social Change. Lansing, MI: Michigan State University, 2003. The Natural Step, ‘Backcasting’ <> 1 October 2009. Understanding the Rules of Public Relations, Communications and Marketing Dryden, J. and McKay, M., Star Public Relations. Interviewed by: Field, M. (8th October 2009). Bethune, G., Ministry of Health. Interviewed by: Field, M. (14th October 2009). Cunningham, L., Farrimond. Interviewed by: Field, M. (8th October 2009). Baylis, N. and Smart, J., M&C Saatchi Limited. Interviewed by: Field, M. (14th October 2009). Tailoring Messages to Specific Market Segments The National Social Marketing Centre, ‘Showcase: Social Marketing Case Studies’ <> 28 September 2009. The Ranges of Human Engagement Gallup Consulting, ‘Engaged Employees Inspire Company Innovation’ <> 16 October 2009. Human Psychology and Cognitive Dissonance Festinger, L., A, Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957. But Is Education Enough? Awake: Behaviour Change for Environmental Sustainability, ‘Does Knowledge Lead to Action?’ <> 2 September 2009. Victorian Government: Sustainable Transport – TravelSmart, ‘Theories and Models of Behaviour Change’ < 84b717095bca256d100017ba50/$FILE/Theories%20and%20models%20of%20behaviour %20change.pdf> 16 October 2009. Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 14 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.
  15. 15. A Look at Some Campaigns, With an Eye on the ‘Golden Rules’ Statistics New Zealand, ‘Projected Population of New Zealand by Age and Sex 2006, (base) – 2061’ <> 28 September 2009. Ministry of Economic Development, ‘Table 2a: Net Electricity Generation by Fuel Type (GWh)’ <> 28 September 2009. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, ‘Welcome to EECA’ <> 28 September 2009. Sign on ‘Celebrity Sign On’ <> 15 October 2009. Massey University Sustainability Conference, November 2009. 15 Sustainability – Driving Behavioural Change: is it as easy as we believe? By Michael Field and Joanne Tunna.