New research released last week explores the latest views of leaders in the study of encouraging more conscious and responsible behaviour. The Motivating Millions research, conducted by UK behaviour change consultancy Corporate Culture, was carried out online between March and May of this year. A quick distillation of the research reveals seven themes:
- A clear definition — In many ways, there was strong consensus: 63% of the leaders defined 'sustainable behaviour change' as "an evidence-based process that uses psychology, behavioural science and audience insight to change how people act." Only 10% said it was primarily about ‘nudging’ people.
- Everyone acting — Three-quarters of those surveyed are already taking behaviour change action or planning to do so. In terms of priority audiences, the leaders were already influencing the behaviour of customers (54%), employees (46%) and suppliers (26%). Eight out of 10 see action on behaviour change as primarily an opportunity rather than a risk.
- Three top motivators — The three top motivators for action are to strengthen relationships (44%), to differentiate organisations from their competitors (38%) and to create sustainable marketplaces (38%).
- Mismatch on issues and action — The research also showed there was seldom an alignment between key external issues and behaviour change priorities. For example, raw material scarcity is seen to be one of the least important external issues (32%) but action on waste is one of the top areas of behaviour change (around 70%). Economic uncertainty topped the external issues but action on saving for the future and ‘managing my finances’ were bottom of the list of priority behaviours.
- CEOs own the issue but don’t have ‘the knowledge’ — CEOs and MDs are seen to own the behaviour change programme (39% compared to 8% for CSR/sustainability directors and marketing directors) and yet their knowledge of behaviour change is thought to be less refined. They see it as more about communications or nudging than about an evidence-based process using insight to define strategies.
- Public sector leads the way — What is also clear is that in many ways, the public sector is often ahead of the private sector in achieving real change. Campaigns such as WRAP’s RecycleNow or Love Food Hate Waste use a variety of strategies to achieve change including communications, research, public policy, grassroots engagement and action on infrastructure. The private sector currently tends to use a narrower range of strategies. Another headline finding suggests the private sector tends not to measure impact. Indeed, almost a fifth of private companies do not measure effectiveness at all compared to just 5% in the public sector.
- Clear responsibilities for government and business — In terms of responsibility, the government was seen to have the lead role in engaging consumers on the need to live more sustainably (66%), while the role of business was to make it easy to act (55%). Third-sector organisations, even among themselves, struggled to identify their role in influencing change.
While there is almost universal agreement about the importance of sustainable behaviour change and its importance in helping organisations achieve future success, barriers remain: Increasing the knowledge, understanding and buy-in of senior colleagues; aligning key external issues with organisations’ behaviour change priorities; and broadening the arsenal of strategies being used to achieve real change will greatly enhance success going forward.
The full research report is available here.