Addressing the threat of climate change will likely be the biggest challenge of our generation. However, research has shown that, despite the increased media focus on net zero, nearly half (44%) of us still feel unsure about what we should be doing.
Smart Energy GB has warned that, unless governments and others address this gap in knowledge, our collective net zero efforts may be at risk. The organisation has significant experience of engaging consumers on carbon-saving technologies, through leading a major campaign around the role of smart meters in helping to deliver a cleaner energy system.
‘With more than 25 million smart meters installed, our experience is that clear and consistent messaging and informed behavioural science helps turn good environmental intentions into tangible actions,’ says Robert Cheesewright, a director at Smart Energy GB. ‘We all want to see action on climate change, but we each need the right conditions if we’re to play our part.’
The organisation recently partnered with the experts at The Behavioural Architects to explore how behavioural science can encourage more consumers to take action. The final report (Tackling Climate Change from Home: How to Turn Good Intentions into Positive Actions) identifies key motivators, and barriers, when it comes to adopting climate-friendly habits. They are: wanting to save money; a desire to protect the planet for future generations; an aversion to waste; a desire to be ‘green’; and wanting to be seen as tech-savvy.
The report also explores which factors resonate most with different groups, providing valuable insight to policymakers and environmental groups alike. It shows, for example, that parents and grandparents respond best to messages about protecting the planet for their children and grandchildren.
It also reveals how income differences have an impact. Lower-income households, for example, were more likely to respond to clear and practical information on cutting costs. Higher earners, meanwhile, responded better to messages around being tech-savvy and early adopters.
The report also reveals that those groups classed as vulnerable — including those older than 75 or living with a disability — are no less motivated to do their bit. However, many expressed a preference for clearer information on how to do so.
As well as the full report, Smart Energy GB has published summary recommendations for organisations looking to engage with the public on climate change. These include:
- Make sure any communications reflect language already used by the public — like ‘tackling climate change’, rather than the less familiar ‘net zero’.
- Avoid using the government’s net zero target as a motivator. Remember that climate change is everyone’s responsibility, not just government’s.
- Ensure that communications don’t come across as didactic in tone. Instead use positive reinforcement to celebrate behaviours and encourage change.
- Use emotional, rather than rational, framing. Speak to people’s inherent motivations to act, rather than more complicated arguments around tonnes of carbon.
- Promote energy-efficiency advice alongside climate change articles.
- Wherever possible communicate multiple benefits to carrying out a behaviour, recognising that saving money is the most common motivator.
With this approach, we hope more organisations can help turn good intentions into effective action — driving the behavioural change needed to save our environment.