Responsibility for Sustainability

responsibilityEven if people believe that sustainability is important, they may not have a personal commitment to it. This enabler relates to the extent to which people feel ownership for sustainability and are willing to prioritise sustainable behaviours and decisions.

Research on this enabler…

  • A campaign to reduce shower times in a university gym was greatly enhanced by providing users with feedback on their current behaviour and contrasting it with their own pledge to reduce their shower length.
  • In an experiment, people were more likely to express preference for purchasing an environmentally friendly TV if they first undertook an exercise designed to connect them to values
  • In a field study, people were less likely to litter if rubbish bins were designed to make them think about what they care about. Even placing a mirror above the bin worked to decrease litter.

Strategies for improving this enabler…

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  • Ensure that your efforts to engage people with sustainability strategy don’t just tell people about it – but that people are invited to consider how it relates to their own activities
  • Create an opportunity to invite employees to consider how sustainability relates to things they place importance on – rather than telling them how important it is
  • Understand the values of your audience and demonstrate how sustainability relates to those values
  • Contrast current actions and behaviours with prior commitments and values. This creates a sense of cognitive dissonance – a powerful catalyst for change
  • Ask employees to set personal goals and pledges for sustainability

Best Practice Examples…

  • Cadbury Schweppes used a CSR Living Our Values Learning Tool to engage employees with the company’s corporate social responsibility program
  • Walmart’s My Sustainability Plan invited employees to engage in personal sustainability goals and initiatives
  • Awake helped Port of Melbourne Corporation to create a sustainability framework through a process which included all employees being invited to workshops where they were encouraged to connect sustainability to their own values and contribute to the sustainability vision and strategies of the organisation

How Awake can help…

  • Awake can design and deliver a sustainability engagement program which employs psychological techniques and exercises which make sustainability real for people and results in commitment and action.
  • The Sustainability Culture Indicator helps you evaluate how committed your people are to sustainability, gives a comparison with employees in other organisations, and allows you to pinpoint barriers to engagement with sustainability.

Other useful resources…

  • The Power of Sustainable Thinking, by Bob Doppelt, is a great exploration of the psychology of sustainability and how to apply it to creating change in organisations and communities
  • The Common Cause Foundation produces a handy range of downloadable resources to help you craft your communications around positive social values
  • One of the keys to generating personal responsibility for sustainability is for people to have a personal connection to it, rather than just hearing a lecture. Hyper Island has an online toolbox full of exercises to help facilitators design workshops which inspire and create change.