Inspiring Climate Action at Work with Behavioral Insights
Climate action is top of mind for workers across the world. A 2023 Deloitte survey of 2,000+ C-level executives revealed that companies and their leadership feel considerable pressure from employees to address climate change. But how can organizations design effective programs that inspire climate action?
Behavioral science offers a potential answer. To catalyze the adoption of climate-friendly behaviors, we can pair traditional approaches like providing information, offering material incentives, and writing rules with behavioral approaches like appealing to people’s emotions, tapping into social norms, and making climate-friendly choices easier to adopt. Given the strong influence of social norms on behavior, workplaces are key areas where these norms take root and guide people’s actions, making them ideal for implementing behavioral approaches.
At Rare, we piloted a behaviorally-informed employee engagement program, GreenShift, to inspire climate action at work. Here, we outline three key strategies to supercharge climate action at the workplace, based on what we learned.
Get rid of the hassle
Traditional behavior change programs often focus solely on providing information, without addressing the inconveniences or “hassle factors.” It’s often the small inconveniences — locating the right portal or creating a new password — that make us say, “Ugh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Removing these points of friction can make a world of difference.
Case in point
GreenShift aimed to advance offsetting of personal carbon emissions with donations to support nature-based solutions to climate change. To streamline the donation process, GreenShift designed an intuitive interface, reducing transactional steps, and integrating multiple payment options. The result? It takes just three clicks and 45 seconds to make a donation on a phone. Now, that’s getting rid of the hassle!
Personalize your message
For broad appeal, craft inviting messages that resonate with an employee’s core values and identity. People need to see climate action as a natural extension of who they are, thereby increasing the likelihood of them changing behavior.
Approaches worth trying
- Telling stories. Stories from one’s peer network can bring people together, convey complex ideas in a digestible way, and inspire action. Spotlight employees who have successfully adopted climate action, inviting them to explain why and how they did it.
- Removing jargon. Climate jargon inhibits understanding. Use language and ideas everyone can understand like the co-benefits of climate action, such as cost-savings, cleaner air, or health improvements, that come from adopting climate behaviors.
Build confidence and apply social pressure
Making things simple and relevant is only half the puzzle. Believing that you can adopt an action (self-efficacy) and seeing others take action (social norms) are two critical components of behavior change.
Credible messengers who have walked the walk can boost people’s confidence that they can also join the climate movement!
- Host Q&A sessions with experts and offer opportunities for employees to observe and learn from the colleagues that have taken climate action.
- Want to up the ante? Appoint internal Program Ambassadors that will act as your program champions. Peer-to-peer interactions are far more influential than directives from unknown departments or colleagues.
The bottom line
Addressing climate change requires action at all levels, including the workplace. The workplace provides an environment in which people interact with their reference network tightly, paying attention to what their colleagues are thinking or doing about climate change.
By highlighting the positive actions of colleagues, employees are more likely to adopt similar behaviors, creating a culture where doing good things for nature is normal. But, here is a caveat. Behavior change only matters if people adopt high-impact behaviors. We can’t recycle our way out of the climate crisis. Apply the strategies to the most impactful climate behaviors that individuals can adopt.
By incorporating behavioral science into your organization’s approach, you’re not just ticking off a corporate responsibility box. You’re contributing to global change, one action at a time.