A Behaviour Change Strategy for DECC

I recently attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on Behaviour Change. The meeting’s focus was on energy efficiency and the scene was set by Energy Minister Amber Rudd.

Everyone is agreed on the importance of behaviour change, the minister said “behaviour change strategies hold the key for solving fuel poverty and other energy issues”. Good news – but as the speech progressed I became increasingly worried that the minister, or DECC, might not know what a behaviour change strategy was – or what constituted a good one. So at the first opportunity my hand shot up and I asked her that very question.
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Improving the mental health and wellbeing of mothers of young children

We recently did some insight research for Stoke on Trent City Council who were at the early stages of developing an intervention to maintain and improve the mental health and wellbeing of women with young children living in the most deprived areas of the city. The mental health of this audience being particularly important due to the impact poor mental health and wellbeing can have on parenting and on the child over time and across generations.

Part of our research explored the potential of The Five Ways to Wellbeing – a set of evidence-based messages aimed at improving the mental health of the whole population – to support this audience to increase their levels of wellbeing. Our research process involved interviews with stakeholders and twenty mothers of young children in Stoke (conducted by our qualitative research partner Skyrocket research). Here are our key findings and conclusions: Continue reading

My Green Deal Journey or How to squander people’s interest in energy efficiency

Ever since I researched and wrote the What’s in it for me? report looking at best practice in motivating consumers to install energy efficiency measures, I have been rather sceptical about the Green Deal as a mechanism for encouraging large numbers of people to reduce their energy use. And, having trained a number of energy efficiency practitioners in using behaviour change and social marketing techniques to improve the performance of their projects, I know I am not alone.
However, following the announcement of The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, I decided to put my scepticism to one side and give the whole thing a go. My motivations? Professional curiosity and a need to properly sort out my draughty windows. Here’s how my Green Deal Journey has started. Continue reading

A new motivation for energy efficiency?

As we know there is widespread anger and frustration with the big six energy companies – for their pricing, profits and levels of customer service. Only 7 out of 10 of the public gave them a positive rating in a recent Populus survey, so introducing yourself to a new acquaintance by saying “I work for one of the big six energy companies” is now more likely to make them recoil in horror than saying you work for a bank (although it is still marginally better than working for a tobacco company or a payday lender).

The solution offered to those wanting to take a stand against the big six is to “vote with your feet” and switch suppliers. All well and good, but I wonder if there is another way in which people might be encouraged to take action. How about “Hit the big energy companies where it hurts – vote with your wallet and become more energy efficient?”

We know that “saving money on your bills” is a problematic benefit with which to promote energy efficiency Continue reading

What is needed to encourage more health professionals to engage with fuel poverty interventions?

Recently a Local Authority public health team invited me to tender for some work to develop a bone health campaign.


The objective of the campaign was to encourage people to take steps and adopt habits (calcium consumption, getting enough vitamin D, weight bearing exercise) to protect their bones. Due to a higher risk of falling and sustaining a bone injury, one of the key target audiences of this campaign was to be people over 65.


As we work across both public health and fuel poverty, this brief begged the question – is it better for the Local Authority to invest resources in a campaign to encourage lifestyle changes amongst older people in general or a project to ensure elderly people at high risk of falls are living in warmer homes? Continue reading

Why the Green Deal’s new cash back offer is unlikely to boost uptake

The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, announced last week, does appear to offer householders a less clunky way of accessing financial support to make their homes more energy efficient.


Householders can get up to £1,000 reimbursed for making two energy efficiency improvements from an approved list, and up to £6,000 if they choose solid wall insulation.


Through the Green Deal, the government is attempting to create a favourable “exchange” for householders to encourage them to take action on energy efficiency – reducing barriers to action (lessening the need for upfront investment) and promoting the benefits of action (saving money on energy bills). Continue reading

Assessing the social and environmental policies of food companies

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands report is an excellent review of the social and environmental policies of the ten largest food and drink companies.

The report looks at companies such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and Nestlé and the policies they adopt with regards to their supply chains. These policies have then been measured against a “scorecard” of seven criteria – the welfare of women, a fair deal for small-scale farmers, fair working conditions, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible water use, avoiding unfair “land grabs”, and overall corporate transparency.

Unsurprisingly the companies do not come out of this review that well Continue reading

Unilever’s latest hand washing initiative – Will education really change behaviour?

Last week the Unilever brand Lifebuoy launched a campaign to promote hand washing with soap in order to reduce the number of children who die before they are five years old from infections such as diarrhoea.

The campaign has “adopted” the Indian village of Thesgora, which has one of the highest rates of diarrhoea infection in India and aims to “provide handwashing education to children and their families“.

This laudable aim is part of Unilever’s positioning as a responsible business – simultaneously generating social good and shareholder profit. Unilever’s CEO. Paul Polman, when launching the campaign said Continue reading

Managing effective energy efficiency projects: Seven top tips from the field

In summer 2012 we researched and co-wrote a report for Consumer Focus called What’s in it for me? which detailed how a range of projects had motivated householders to adopt energy efficiency measures.

The report, and its accompanying Behaviour Change Planning Checklist, recommended adopting an audience-focussed, behaviour change approach to improve the effectiveness of energy efficiency projects.

These findings were explored in three workshops with energy efficiency practitioners in York, Birmingham and London. Using the experience and feedback from the practitioners who attended workshops we have written a new report, What’s in it for us? that captures the key learning from the sessions and makes seven recommendations to improve the performance of energy efficiency projects. Continue reading

Changing physical activity behaviours: A success story

Today’s research in the Lancet came with the eye-catching headline that a lack of exercise now causes as many deaths as smoking across the world. In the UK physical inactivity is a widespread problem with nearly two-thirds of adults failing to take enough exercise to keep themselves healthy, according to the research.

From a behaviour change perspective, prompting sustained action on physical activity is a considerable challenge. Many barriers to change exist both at an individual level (e.g. lack of time, enjoyment or self-efficacy) and at an external level (e.g. home entertainment, the reliance on the car, reduction in occupational activity or lack of facilities).

However one project has demonstrated that, by applying key behaviour change principles (summarised in our public health behaviour change checklist) it is possible to achieve positive action. Continue reading