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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Behaviour Change for Sustainability - How Green?

Marketers love it when they can slice their audience into “segments”. This means that they can identify different groups according to their purchasing patterns, and target them with specific offers which are likely to appeal to their particular characteristics, values and tastes.

Not surprisingly, given the growth in general environmental concern, attention has been turned to identifying segments within the population when it comes to green issues. While much of this focus has been driven by a desire to capture a bigger slice of the “green dollar”, there are some useful insights to be gained for those wishing to influence not only purchasing preference, but also other types of environmentally significant behaviour.

In an attempt to define these green segments, a number of models have been proposed over the years. In the early 1990’s Mintel, a leading market research group, divided people into Dark Green, Light Green, Pale Green, Armchair Green, and Unconcerned. The highly active Deep Greens tended to be females, with children, while the Armchair Greens were those who espoused concern but had not changed their behaviour much accordingly. 1 in 10 people were Unconcerned, with 2% actively “anti-green”. This work was replicated in a 1996 study in Northern Ireland, who found a similar set of segments, which they called Super-Green, Emerging Green, Experimental Green, Potential Green and Anti-Green.

More recently, the term LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) has gained popularity. LOHAS is described as “a market segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice” (from Since the LOHAS market was identified and named in 2000, various studies have estimated the market to be worth over $200b in the United States and as much as $19b in Australia. So it is no surprise that identifying and capturing these people has become a big deal for business.

Although these and other studies have given various names to the segments which they have identified, there seems to be a consistent pattern in the size and makeup of the groups. Roughly 15-20% fit into the highly committed/deep green/supergreen segment. Then comes a cluster of around 50-70% of the population who are moderates – they are concerned about the environment, and will undertake some green behaviours, but do not always make it a priority. Finally, a hard core of 10-20% of people are either unconcerned with environmental issues, or actively hostile towards them.

One of the key reasons for focusing on these segments is to identify what it is that defines them. One of the main factors appears to be the degree to which they are prepared to make sacrifices to be environmentally responsible. While highly “Committed”s are prepared to pay a higher price and suffer a certain amount of inconvenience to choose the green option, more moderate segments will only choose the green option if all other things are equal. Convenience and price are major considerations for this group.

The segments also appear to differ in their view of where responsibility for environmental matters should lie. Australian research, for instance, found that only the highly committed group believed on average that individuals should do more to protect the environment. Indeed personal responsibility appears to go hand in hand with the degree of power which people feel they have to make a difference. Stewart Barr, a leading UK researcher, found in a series of focus groups that many less committed people cite distrust in government and business as a reason for not making an effort themselves. The attitude that emerges is that “if the big institutions are not going to make serious changes, what difference can I make”.

The identification of such segments can assist us in tailoring our approach to behaviour change programs. As Barr points out, different barriers for action exist for different segments. If we know what drives people, it makes it easier to influence them. Here are a few tips for influencing the different green segments.

Committed’s are prepared to place environmental considerations as a high priority, therefore the green credentials of a behaviour or product need to be emphasised to this group. They are likely to be well-informed and shrewd in their evaluation of such things, and therefore a pretty holeproof case needs to be made.

Moderates are more sensitive to price and convenience, therefore any perceived barriers to these considerations need to be removed where possible, and the net benefits emphasised. They also want to be seen to be doing the right thing, as they are not radicals, so any effort to draw their attention to the social desirability of the target behaviour is likely to assist.

Finally, those who are Unconcerned or actively anti-green, as outlined above, often express a view that it is not their responsibility, and therefore any attempt to influence these people needs to start at an attitudinal level. Beginning at the right level and aiming for incremental shifts is an underlying principle promoted by many of the researchers cited above.

This article was sourced from Awake -
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

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Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+