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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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

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

Support for local authorities looking to generate customer demand for the Green Deal

The opportunity

A recent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report highlighted the opportunity for local authorities “to lead or to participate in programmes to improve energy efficiency and encourage behaviour change” in the residential housing sector.

The main “programme” in town is of course the Green Deal, which allows householders to take out loans to pay for energy efficiency measures, with the guarantee that the savings on their energy bills will be greater than the loan repayments. Last month, Ed Davey in a speech to the Local Government Continue reading

Battery recycling: Some positives and negatives

Here in the UK we are playing catch up with battery recycling. By signing up to the EU Battery Directive we committed to collect 25% of used “portable” batteries (e.g. in your remote control, mobile phone or watch) by the end of 2012. The fact that we were only achieving 3% in 2009 demonstrates the scale of the challenge.

As a result of the directive, large battery producers now have to pay for waste battery collection and treatment. Furthermore, any shop selling the equivalent of one 4-pack of AA batteries a day needs to offer in store collection points for customers. Continue reading

Is education the best way for Unilever to increase ethical purchasing behaviour?

In a recent Financial Times article (registration needed) by Michael Skapinker Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman shared his views on the slow uptake of ethical consumer purchasing behaviour, “We’ve seen limited consumer understanding on buying products that come from illegal deforestation… Consumers don’t value yet if your margarine comes from sustainable palm oil or not. So you have to do an educational programme.”

Do consumers really need educating about the palm oil content of their margarine or shampoo? Continue reading