This entry is shortlisted in the 2012 Peer Award “Sustainability and the Environment” category
Influencing Behavioural Change for a more Sustainable Future.
a small group of committed friends can change the world.
Affecting positive behavioural change and significant employee engagement to reduce workplace environmental impacts. With support of the leading behaviour change charity, Global Action Plan we recruited volunteers, ‘Sustainable Friends’, and challenged them to devise campaigns which captured people’s imagination and action. The self-chosen campaigns were to reduce paper use, the use of disposable cups and to switch PC monitors off at night. The Sustainable Friends applied influencing skills to create behaviour change interventions which included high impact displays, eye-catching screen savers and posters that reinforced their peer to peer messaging. Employee-led demands on facilities and services companies increased environmental accountability.
The programme commenced with a baseline survey of existing attitudes and practices. Communications reached all 2981 Bristol colleagues. We achieved a 20% reduction in the number of monitors left on overnight, saving the equivalent of 3,257 Kwh or 3.7 tonnes CO2e per year. A limited purchase of 200 branded Keep Cups, were trialled with frequent drinkers who represented 4% disposable cup reduction, avoiding 0.2 tonnes CO2e a year. This successful trial will be extended. The Sustainable Friends developed new bin signage which resulted in a 12% increase in recycling and 5% reduction in waste saving approximately 29 tonnes CO2e.
Many environmental and behavioural campaigns achieve very limited engagement and subsequently, little environmental benefit. It is usually only the committed few who engage in behavioural change initiatives. The Sustainable Friends Programme has been successful because of the self-motivated network of friends has used its’ own networks of relationships to galvanise the support of colleagues across the office. This was encouraged through competition, reciprocity and reward, and of course chocolate. The success of this programme has been refreshingly grass-roots driven rather than mandated from the top, and has been picked up in other offices expanding the Sustainable Friends networks.
The programme dispelled internal myths and fostered ideas. Sustainable Friends included Facilities and Health, Safety and Environment volunteers, which ensured effective meetings and communications. Employee-led demands on facilities and services companies increased accountability e.g. Security monitoring computer switch-off, Sodexo allowing Keepcups at coffee outlets, Carillion supporting poster production, new bin labels and hosting a waste awareness day. The baseline survey highlighted some archaic office practices, below recommended environmental performance and poor operational staff / office worker communication. Baseline measurements and spot-checks provided employees with current statistics of environmental performance. Measurement and feedback reinforced and helped maintain sustained pro-environmental behavioural change.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.
Global Action Plan’s holistic behaviour change approach, including social psychology, behavioural economics and social practice theory, helped the Sustainable Friends to identify key bad environmental habits within the context of the Friends Centre, understand the motivators and barriers to specific behaviours and develop innovate solutions to them. The Sustainable Friends’ enthusiasm, drive, determination and success, is inspiring other offices to follow their example, set up their own champion group and join the Sustainable Friends network.
Celia Arberry manages a small team that focuses on the Friends Life Community Programme, which incorporates our charity partnerships, team challenge volunteering, school governor volunteers and payroll giving. Her key challenge is to engage as many employees in activities as possible. Celia and the team do this with the aid of both Community Ambassadors working in each office location, and the Sustainable Friends network, which is now expanding to other offices.