Why Delivering the Global Biodiversity Framework Needs Behavior Change

Webinar Recording

January 23, 2023
  The successful implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) depends on people changing their behaviors – whether it is by reducing overconsumption, changing farming practices, or altering our interactions with nature. While behavior change isn’t easy, it is critical to preventing biodiversity loss that is impacting communities around the world.


On January 17, Rare and the Chester Zoo brought thought leaders from the conservation, environmental, and behavioral science spaces together for a webinar discussing the keys to unlocking effective behavior change approaches to benefit people and nature. Participants from nearly 40 countries and spanning governments, NGOs, foundations, and academia attended the event, entitled, “Why Delivering the Global Biodiversity Framework Needs Behavior Change,” to learn how behavior change can deliver the goals of the GBF.

David Ainsworth, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, opened the discussion with an overview of the GBF and its goals. Ainsworth noted how the text of the agreement recognized the role behavior change can play. “The most difficult and challenging task, though, lies ahead of us,” he said, “We need to take concrete actions and measures to work together to implement this Framework.”

Building off Ainsworth’s call to action, Kevin Green, head of Rare’s Center for Behavior & the Environment, outlined the organization’s focus on integrating behavioral change into its conservation work. Green spoke about Rare and Chester Zoo’s recent victory in passing a resolution calling for behavior-centered solutions during the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Congress.

“Virtually all the global drivers of biodiversity loss… share at least one thing in common – to solve them, someone is going to have to decide to change something they’re doing,” said Green.

Green went on to share how Rare’s approach expands upon the traditional toolkit of using material incentives, rules and regulations, and information to address environmental challenges, building upon these to include approaches like appealing to emotions, shifting social norms, and redesigning the context in which choices are made.

“Armed with that deeper level of understanding of what makes people tick, we can expand the levers we have at our disposal that we can pull on to encourage, inspire and enable adoption of behaviors to enable people and nature to thrive,” Green said.

Dr. Rosina Bierbaum, Chair of the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), spoke about the role of behavior change becoming more central to the GEF approach in recent years. Pointing to Rare’s six levers for behavior change, Bierbaum shared that being more explicit about how behavior change happens is critical to the work of the GEF.

“Investments are more likely to succeed if the assumed behavioral change is spelled out explicitly rather than being a background assumption,” said Bierbaum.

Bierbaum closed by underscoring the importance of behavior change approaches in achieving the 30×30 targets. “This wonderfully lofty [30×30] goal cannot be achieved without behavior change,” she said.

Following Bierbaum’s focus on designing better interventions with behavior change, Rocky Sanchez Tirona, head of Rare’s global Fish Forever Program, gave examples of applied behavior change in action. Tirona spoke about coastal communities of the Philippines, and how fishing is an example of cooperative behavior, where individuals must take on personal costs for the benefit of the group. Therefore, community-led behavior change is essential. Fish Forever does this in three steps: 1) mutual recognition among fishers that there is a problem that they all share (in this case, overfishing); 2) coordinating the shift in a cooperative, community-led manner; and 3) strengthening the new norm. Throughout the process, Tirona emphasizes one key aspect: “The community members and the fishers are seen as the experts,” she said. “They must come to the meetings to bring their perspective.”

Finally, Charlotte Smith, Director of Conservation Education at the Chester Zoo, discussed the Zoo’s work with partners in Malaysian Borneo, where they support a behavior change campaign on producing certified sustainable palm oil. “The goal is to work with the palm oil industry to drive long-lasting, sustainable change, rather than boycotting, which may lead to the use of other, more destructive alternatives,” she explained. Smith explains how bottom-up and top-down approaches can drive social change in her discussion. Consumers can use the PalmOil app to understand better where their products are coming from. Companies can make public statements about their rejection of unsustainable palm oil, putting pressure on the supply chain.

The webinar brought in over 450 registrants from over 40 different countries. Missed the live conversation? Watch the recording above!

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Photo Credit: Jason Houston for Rare