Motivating low-carbon behaviours - insights from the Scottish Government

Insights from research commissioned to inform our social marketing campaigns concerning low carbon behaviours.

Executive Summary

As part of its public engagement on climate change, Scottish Government has been running social marketing campaigns to inform people about the low carbon behaviours they can adopt and motivate them to take up these actions. Research into behaviour change and communication has been carried out to inform these campaigns and make them as effective as possible. This document summarises insights from this research, and presents some results from the attitude and behaviour tracking work carried out alongside each campaign. The key findings include:

1. Climate change is not the main motivator behind the adoption of low carbon behaviours. People often perceive climate change to be a distant, global problem, not relevant enough to their everyday lives to warrant continued attention and effort.

2. To influence people, you have to appeal to their immediate concerns. Health, financial gains, and improvements to the local environment should be emphasised alongside, or instead of, carbon savings.

3. A wide range of influences govern each behaviour. The fewer the external influences on a particular behaviour, such as the availability of seasonal food or bus routes, the easier that behaviour will be to adopt. Campaigns focused on behaviours with comparatively few external influences, such as saving energy or walking instead of driving for short journeys, are likely to be more successful.

4. Framing behaviours within a wider picture of collective action and shared responsibility can inspire individuals to act. People are more likely to buy into green communications if the focus is on creating change together, as a community or nation. It makes individual actions seem more effective and more meaningful.

This document focuses on research commissioned in Scotland to inform the Scottish Government's social marketing and communications campaigns. However we are aware that, where similar research has been undertaken for other geographies, such as the UK as a whole, the findings tend to be consistent with these Scottish findings.


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