Zoe's Thought of the Day

Date: 14/05/2014

The Emotional Dinosaur

I was looking over my notes I made at the Resource event today and came across a great comment a member of the audience from the ‘Shift to a sharing economy and the psychology of ownership’ talk. The discussion was on emotional attachment of products and the psychology of ownership. The chap in the audience made the interesting comment that we have no emotional attachment to water bottles however we have an interest and an emotional connection to dinosaurs. Yet plastics are made out of dinosaurs. And we still throw away water bottles after an average of 30 minutes. Would highlighting this change our emotional attachment to water bottles?

Share your views with us at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk

The Globe Trotting Cod

I just watched this video from the Guardian Sustainable Business website. Guess how far cod has to travel to get on our plates – 10,000 miles!!!! Its caught in Scotland, shipped to China, filleted by workers on less that £1 a day and then shipped back to Scotland to be sold! How ridiculous?! As well as it being logistically impractical, this 10,000 mile round trip has major environmental impacts - all in the name of profit!

This short video is definitely worth a watch, it nicely captures how sustainability can be profitable for businesses with a little bit of systems thinking.

Share your thoughts with us at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk.

Using social identity to influence your customer behaviours

I recently read an interesting article by Guy Champniss (who also happens to have recently finished his PhD at Cranfield) called “Why Your Customers’ Social Identities Matter” (Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2015) about the importance of your customers' social identities for influencing their behaviours.

In a nutshell, the article is talking about how social identities are important for marketers for influencing a person’s behaviour at a given time. It is important to take into consideration the social group your audience will hold at the time in which you will be engaging with them to ensure your messaging is effective. This is especially true at the time of purchase. Identifying what social identity a person holds at that moment is the difference between influencing a sale or loosing one. Our social identity is chosen by what we are doing at a given moment and who we are with. For example, when we are at work we are part of a different social group than when we are in the pub with friends or at home with family. The given situation we are in determines which one of our groups we bring to mind and in turn informs how we behave in that context.
With this concept you can influence your customers’ behaviour By encouraging your customers to recall a specific social identity at a moment in time, you can encourage behaviour such as engaging in your website or making a purchase. You could even create a new social identity to influence their behaviours.
For more on how social identities could influence the behaviours of your customers, get in touch hello@think-sustainability.co.uk.

Lunch with TED

Alex Laskey: How behavioral science can lower your energy bill

Although this TED talk is from last year, I really like it. He sets the context of our energy use and how much are wasting through leaving lights on, so well by showing us exactly how much coal is required to power one light and then gives relatable examples of how much we are wasting. This is a great example of how to engage people and help them to understand the enormity of an issue by making it easy to understand and relatable.

The behavioural study they did, although nearly a year old now, was revolutionary in the context of energy behaviours and had a great impact. Although there has been some negative effects, such as the boomerang effect (people see they are achieving less than their neighbors or doing better than average therefore they think it is ok to use more energy!), but all in all this has been a really successful approach and resulted in reduced environmental impact.

The most powerful thing I took away from this TED Talk was that the biggest resource for energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint isn’t technologies or renewable energies… it is us…people. Our behaviours are the biggest resource for change.

So before I give it all away, grab a cuppa, make some lunch and click on the link above. Watch it for yourself and let me know what you think at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk.

The business case for Smart Metering


The push for energy companies to implement Smart Meters into homes is a great result for energy efficiency and the environment. On top of that it holds great potential for customers, businesses and energy providers. We’ve got the people who want to be energy efficient and we’ve got the technology to help them to do so, but how do we use smart metering most effectively to be of value for both the customer and the provider?


Smart metering presents a massive opportunity for energy providers to be able to get up-close and personal with their customers and gather data on their energy use. It also brings great value to customers through being able to monitor how much energy they are using, how much this is costing them and where efficiencies can be made.


But what is the best way to go about implementing and managing Smart Metering? 

Do people want to use them? 

Do people understand the benefits and relevance of Smart Meters for them? 


Without understanding the customer, energy providers will not be able to get buy in or trust from customers. Understanding the business case for smart metering starts with an understanding of the customer and what drives their attitudes and behaviours towards energy efficiency. This will allow effective communication strategies to be developed to work alongside technology for effective, long-term behaviour change, loyalty and satisfaction.


To hear more on behaviour change for energy efficiency get in touch at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk.




Could the Millennials be the key market to target?

Green products are seen as more positive to Millenials (also called Gen Y) who were born in the early 1980’s to early 2000’s, yet not many retailers are focussing their messages to target them. 
A study was carried out on Millennials to see what types of words they see as expressing environmentally friendly, the main seven were:
This study also looked at what package features Millennials look for to indicate it is environmentally friendly. The top seven were:
Recycling symbol
Product’s name
Pictures of nature
Green colored package
Simple package design
This is the generation that are concerned for the environment but still want to keep on consuming. Surely they are the perfect market to target? They want to keep on buying stuff but they also want to buy responsibly and be seen to be buying responsibly. 
These are the individuals who want to have a positive influence on the environment and seen to be the biggest advocates for companies that are doing good. Using tailored messages and channels such as social media, the Millennials could be a key market for green product purchasing that is being currently under looked.
If you want to know if Millennials could be a good market for you to target, get in touch at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk

The Meaty Consumption Dilemma

I have decided I am going to start being more aware of what I’m consuming and the consequences of my behaviours. After all I’m doing a PhD on the topic so surely I should be practicing what I preach?!
This is mainly motivated for health reasons after hearing about the alarming amount of hormones that can be found in the meat we eat, as well as, of course, the horrific conditions the animals are forced to live in - and we all know about the negative impact that the meat industry has on the environment. Even the likes of Richard Branson has jumped on the meat free band waggon!
So, with this in mind I have finally bit the bullet and decided to stop eating meat. I am not going to go completely vegetarian, I am just choosing to only eat organic and ethically sourced meat and fish. Seeing as I’m a student I think my meat consumption is going to be very minimal from now on! 
The ultimate goal is to only eat organic produce. Of course the idea of organic produce is that it is much more expensive than regular... but is it really that much more? Can we make little sacrifices or even consume that bit less to eat better quality, healthier food? I’m going to give it a go.
If you have any thoughts on this we’d love to hear, send us an email at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk. 


I really like this MINDSPACE model that was created by the Government for policy-making in 2011. The below is taken from DEFRA’s “An Introduction about ‘Energy Behaviour’: a Multi Model Approach”.

This is great food for thought when addressing any type of behaviour. For more information get in touch at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk.

Theories of energy behaviour

An interesting report by DEFRA talking about energy behaviour nicely explained how different lenses should be used to understand different aspects of behaviours.

A report by the Centre for Sustainable Energy for Ofgem’s Energy Demand Research Project was mentioned as they identified four theories that can be used to understand how people use energy:


  • Economic (adapting use in response to price)
  • Psychological (use affected by stimulus and engagement)
  • Sociological (energy is invisible  therefore activities leading to consumption are significant)
  • Educational theories to help to better understand the behaviour (energy use is learned through experience)

These can then be split into two groups; whether the focus is on the individual (economic and psychological) or on the context (sociological and educational).

This helps understand behaviours even further to create relevant and targeted communication strategies. Will you focus on the user as an individual or the context that determines and creates a behaviour?

For more on different theories of energy and how these can be used for your campaigns, send us an email at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk.

Feeding back on energy consumption

I’m looking at behaviour change in the context of energy consumption and keep coming across a lot of stuff on the feedback of information from the provider to the consumer. 

There has been a lot of research looking at showing consumers their consumption rate in comparison to their neighbours. It has been shown that this can encourage households to use less energy but can also lead to a rebound affect if the household is achieving better than average (eg feel they can use more energy as they achieved less than average). 

There is also real time feedback provided by smart metering and historical feedback by comparing energy use from month to month. All good ways of communicating energy consumption however the most successful approach seems to be through providing a variety of information. For example we can compare a household’s historical consumption rates along with the average for the neighbourhood as well as giving more specific information about the times of the day were energy consumption has been highest, so individuals can relate this to their actual behaviour. 

Smart metering allows households see their energy consumption in real time which means individuals are able to play around and learn what appliances use the most energy while in use or switched off. For those that are not interested in the environmental impacts or learning about their impact, this is less likely to be effective. However, by providing different types of information we can help all consumers understand their energy usage by making it relevant and personal to the individual and the activities that they engage in.  

For more on influencing behaviours for sustainable energy consumption, get in touch at hello@think-sustainability.com


Understanding energy use

I came across this quote today in a review that was done for DEFRA, on the effectiveness of feedback on energy consumption:

“…consider groceries in a hypothetical store totally without price markings, billed via monthly statement…How could grocery shoppers economise under such a billing regime?”
            -Kempton and Layne 1994

What a great way of showing the complexity of energy usage and the difficulty of understanding its price due to it not being an instant cost as soon as it is used. This makes energy a difficult thing to put value on, especially as people do not use energy, they engage with appliances that use energy.

To help individuals better understand the impact of their energy consumption, we need to break it down to make it relevant for them and show which behaviours result in different levels of energy use and the impact that has.

This is a really interesting area of research that has had a lot of attention, including many studies funded by the likes of DEFRA, to see what is the most effective way of changing behaviours around energy consumption.

For more information on changing behaviours in energy consumption, get in touch at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk

Transforming behaviour intentions into actual action

A lot of research has been done around sustainability and behaviour change, but many judge the end result on how much people’s attitudes change or whether an individual reports that they intend to change their behaviour. Unfortunately, in reality, people do not always follow through with a behaviour just because they are concerned with the issue or report that they will change their behaviour.

This behaviour intention-actual behaviour gap is a tricky one to close as it has many complexities, which I am in the process of mapping and understanding through my research. Understanding the complexities and barriers people face in carrying out a behaviour means being able to provide people with a helping hand to make it easy and convenient for them to engage in sustainable behaviours.

By focussing on closing this gap we can ensure we are helping people to follow through with purchasing that sustainable product or supporting them to change their behaviour towards a more desirable alternative. This will not only ensure differentiation, it will also increase loyalty and trust in companies.

For more information on how to close the behaviour intention-actual action gap with your customers, get in contact at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk.

Consumers are producers and the products of their behaviours

I really like this notion brought up in the Journal of Business Research by Phipps et al. (2013) that behaviours are not simply an outcome, but actually feedback to influence future behaviours for sustainable consumption. This may be really helpful for us to understand the factors that influence sustainable consumption.

Personal, environmental and behavioural aspects of consumption all influence each other to effect future behaviours. The outcome of those behaviours will then influence future behaviours after those. For example, if an individual’s experience of engaging in a sustainable behaviour was a positive one that resulted in unexpected benefits like personal satisfaction or financial gains, people might want to engaging in other pro-environmental behaviours for similar benefits. This encourages spill over from engaging in one sustainable activity to other types of sustainable behaviours.

Marketers should see behaviour as not simply an end goal of sustainability marketing activities, but as an independent variable that can determine future behaviours. This will help us go from predicting behaviours and the variables that influence sustainable behaviours, to looking at how behaviours can actually influence personal and environmental factors towards more sustainable behaviours.

Understanding the variables that influence behaviours means we can target exactly what influences people to behave in a certain way to then be able to change these for the specific sustainability outcome we desire, whether that be to gain awareness, purchase sustainable alternatives or behave sustainably.

For more information on what variables could influence your customer's behaviours, contact us at hello@think-sustainability.co.uk

Let’s encourage mindful consumption rather than anti-consumption

Reducing consumption and saving resources is a key aim for sustainable development, but what if we shift the focus from anti-consumption to mindful consumption?

By encouraging mindful consumption, marketers can help consumers understand how their behaviours directly impact the environment. This could get people to care more about the consequences of their consumption behaviours and encourage them to be mindful and choose better alternatives. By focussing the health and well-being of the consumer, we can communicate the personal benefits of consuming more sustainably to influence behaviours.

This is a strategic opportunity for marketers and businesses who can help consumers to reduce their consumption rates and guide them to better alternatives, as well as achieving their own sustainability goals. Encouraging consumption is no longer the goal of today’s marketer. We now need to help consumers make better, more informed choices towards pro-environmental behaviours for the improved welfare of the consumer and the planet.

Concentrating on mindful consumption can increase trust in a brand and encourage consumers to engage with businesses who are seen to be looking out for them and care for their wellbeing. Rather than marketing products and encourage consumption, we can help guide consumers to choose our better, more sustainable alternatives.

To find out more about how you can use mindful consumption in your communications email hello@think-sustainability.co.uk


Taking the World Hunger Day £5/5 days food challenge!

It is often overlooked that 1 in 5 people in the UK are living below our poverty line and as a result can’t feed themselves yet a majority of us over consume and are wasteful with food. We buy too much from the supermarkets, we store stuff that we don’t use which goes off and we cook too much so we end up throwing away masses of leftovers. According to 2013 UK Government statistics, we throw away over 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year, most of which there is nothing wrong with. This is costing us £12 billion a year.

We need to find a way of distributing this obscene amount of food waste to those who need it. Creating effective distribution links and networks can link together those who have a surplus of food to those who cannot afford to eat. How can we use effective communication strategies to bring awareness to this issue and get businesses and consumers involved in creating a solution?

It’s World Hunger Day today so I have decided to take the challenge to live below the bottom line on £5/5 days for all my food and drink to give myself a glimpse of how 1.2 billion people across the world are living. I’ve set myself the goal of raising £200 and generating as much awareness as I can for this cause.

So my strategy for the challenge is soup, tea and fruit! I’ve stocked up on 1kg frozen carrots and broccoli, 1kg of frozen spinach and 500g of Kale to boil and blend with a bit of garlic and salt for seasoning. Oh and a few apples for the sweet tooth! I’m pretty confident this should last me the 5 days and cost me about £4 so I have an emergency £1 just in case! Hmm… does wine count in this…?! Maybe I should start after the weekend!

Watch this space for updates on how I do and how much money I raise!  Or feel free to send through your words of encouragement to hello@think-sustainability.co.uk or @claritysustain

Measuring for success and customer value

Last week I had the privilege of attending The Responsible Business Summit event in London where many well known CEOs attended including Sainsbury’s, SABMiller, Interface, Bupa and many more.

A stand out talk was by Nakul Anand from ITC Hotels, India, the first green luxury hotel brand. What an inspiration and a champion for all hotel brands proving that you can be the most sustainable and the most profitable business. Nakul believes its their job to educate their customers so rather than simply eliminating unsustainable offerings, ITC offer sustainable alternatives in addition in the hope to educate people to want to change their behaviours. They even researched what food doesn’t induce sleep to serve at conferences so meetings stay efficient!

The main thing that struck me from the two days was the amount of questions addressing measuring company performance. All had similar responses of “it’s a challenge” or “it’s difficult”. Why is this? What is the best way to measure performance?

If companies are not measuring performance, how do they know their impact? Why should people believe what they say or even listen? Surely talking about what they are doing without showing the impact would be like hearing how great a football team played but wasn’t told the score! Who won? What happened? What’s the ending of the story?!

For businesses to show the impact of their activities and show that they are reaching their benchmarks they need to show it. To be competitive companies need to find ways to measure effectiveness of their efforts with stakeholders and prove that their activities actually are making an impact. At the very least, lack of measurement can lead to waste communications budget, where it could otherwise be prioritised on the most effective interventions.

I agree with one speaker, who said that companies should demonstrate they mean what they say about their sustainability concerns and that they should be in line with their core values. He also suggested that if activities around sustainability have a cost to the company then show this as part of the measurement and transparency.

Its great to see the topic of measuring performance is being thought about by companies and seen as important. How can we also manage and analyse our learning’s each time? By learning and improving from our activities and efforts we can ensure we are truly meeting our customer needs and those of our stakeholders to make it more valuable and meaningful for them.

This will be a central topic that is explored in each of my forthcoming publications.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share about this article or to find out more, then please e-mail hello@think-sustainability.co.uk

Hi, I’m Zoe, and I have joined the Clarity Sustainability team to undertake my PhD, in collaboration with Cranfield University, researching the impact of communications and marketing in driving a more sustainable society and generating new best practice for aiding organisations. 

My background is in Communication Design where I studied a Bachelor degree in Melbourne, Australia and then went on to complete a Master of Design in Innovation and Creativity in Industry degree at Cranfield University . This has given me a real passion for sustainability, communications and understanding attitudes and behaviors.

I’m going to work with Clarity to explore the different facets of sustainability communications, to provide knowledge and best practice in these areas with the aim of helping to drive more effective outcomes. I believe we can put the rigor and science behind this to deliver really solid recommendations to both the academic and industrial communities.

I’m going to explore topics like behaviour change, segmentations, avoiding greenwashing and lots more. If you would like to contribute your experiences to the research or are interested to be kept informed of our findings, please get in touch by e-mailing hello@think-sustainability.co.uk.

Bye for now,


Connect with us

Want to know what we’re up to? Sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates.

Connect with us

Want to know what we’re up to? Sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates.