Inspiring climate-related actions in China – An interview with Shiyang Li

"Rare Quotes" features leaders from across Rare putting the work into their own words.

March 27, 2024

In this video, Shiyang Li, Director of Rare China Center for Behavior, explores the program’s history of engaging China’s rural and urban communities in conservation. She emphasizes Rare’s unique approach to understanding individuals for impactful, lasting change and shares the program’s evolution toward supporting individuals to take climate-related actions like reducing food waste.

Full transcript

Describe the people in the communities we’re working with.

We are working with all kind of communities in China. In the early years, we worked a lot with the farmers in the remote areas. In recent years, we work with the people from the business and more engaging the consumer in the cities. I think, no matter the rural at the countryside and the urban side, and the people at the community level, they really care about how to improve their life while also they wanted to improve the life of their children and for future generation.

What are some of the solutions that you’ve worked with people to identify in China?

In recent years we started to transit to work on climate-related actions, such as food waste. We work with the restaurant hospitality industry to convert their behavior towards more sustainable behavior.

Apparently, it’s not like everybody share the same knowledge about the food waste. That’s behavior insight we identify during our research. Then we work with the restaurant staff to develop a tool to monitoring the kitchen waste in a different category. Everybody share the same knowledge about how much, actually, is waste during their daily operation

We wanted to identify what is the top prioritized behavior that Chinese people can do to address the climate change? Then, we work with the partners in China closely to develop behavior tools, or campaigns, or different approach to facilitate the change in different behaviors. Eventually, we wanted to build an index of all these different behaviors and measure those behavior and what’s the impact those behavior change can contribute to the China’s 3060 climate goals.

How are people in China dealing with climate change?

Climate change in China is really hot topic that everybody is talking about.

Literally, when we’re talking to go to a restaurant, the staff will tell you, “Oh, just a few months ago, there’s a big flood in Beijing that destroy a lot of houses and the families.

People started to realize that climate change is so real, and it’s happening around their family. In a recent survey, that 90% of Chinese citizens wanted to take action, but they didn’t take enough action because they think the behavior change is really hard. I think that make our work so critical because that is a specialty that Rare can bring around the world to address this challenges.

What is central to the way Rare in China engages people?

I think Rare is really unique because Rare really put a lot of effort to really, understand people. A lot of people just take it for granted. “Oh, I know how farmers think. I know how this staff think.” They either be lazy, or they need just more education. They’re just making this judgment without really understand them or listening to them.

I think that’s what Rare really good at.