Sustainability Trade Mission Across the Nordics – Key Learnings, Opportunities, and Next Steps

Lightbulbs in green

June 6, 2024

We caught up with our culture and behaviour change consultant, Alexandra Stubbings to delve into behavioural science and sustainable practice transformations, exploring the role of coordinated activism, the psychology of denial, and the crucial shifts needed within business management to achieve sustainability goals effectively.

Listen while you read

Shifting Mindsets to Move: Cultural and Behavioural Change in Sustainable Mobility

In a world grappling with the urgency of climate change, the transformation of mobility habits stands as a pivotal challenge and opportunity. At TripShift, we are tapping into the power of cultural and behavioural insights to drive a revolution in sustainable mobility, strategy setting, and enhanced community engagement.  

We caught up with Alexandra Stubbings, our consultant on culture and behaviour change, to discuss the ins and outs of how the world and the habits of the people within it are moving towards sustainability, exploring the possibilities this behaviour shift brings and the challenges we have to overcome. 

The Link Between Behavioural Change and Neuroscience

Alexandra brings to light a crucial aspect of behavioural science, explaining the potential for actions to drive changes in beliefs and identity. This principle is rooted in psychology and supported by neuroscience, exploring how engaging in new behaviours can fundamentally alter cognitive processes associated with habit formation and decision-making. 

Alexandra elaborates on this transformative process, outlining that as we engage in new behaviours and experience them as rewarding, we may come to identify with them and so seek out opportunities to do more. Even when positive environmental aspect is not the primary driver, have ar, people may choose to adopt related pro-environmental habits because that’s part of the identity that feels aligned. As identity shifts, so too do values, in turn influencing our choices.. Over time these choices become less conscious, and we embed these new norms into our behaviours.

For example for TripShift, if using public transportation or cycling is shown to be both convenient and rewarding through our app, users are more likely to try these modes of transport. Once these actions are repeated, they become more integrated into the user’s identity – they may even begin to see themselves as someone who values and practises sustainability. This shift is critical not just for the individual but for cultivating a broader cultural shift towards environmental consciousness.

This understanding of behavioural psychology is fundamental for TripShift. By making sustainable choices more accessible and engaging, we can nudge users towards behaviours that they might not naturally gravitate towards.

The Role of Coordinated Activism and Community Engagement

Alexandra’s insights into the role of coordinated activism and community engagement in promoting sustainable practices are rooted in her doctoral research. “My studies explored how behavioural changes occur within large organisations , particularly focusing on how individual and collective actions can initiate widespread environmental awareness and cultural change ” Alexandra outlines. 

The effectiveness of coordinated local efforts can be observed in actions such as those by activist employee groups which often start with externally-focused, community actions that gradually gain momentum and lead to broader engagement inside and outside of the company. Alexandra’s research highlights that engaging with such groups  can catalyse transformative change for organisations.  

Alexandra says “we can easily forget that an organisation’s culture and values are powerfully influenced by its many stakeholders and their diverse values; employees are stakeholders themselves and reflect that diversity. Through positive engagement with employee activists and stakeholder communities on environmental topics, leaders can amplify their pro-sustainability messages and practices, motivating regenerative action and not mere regulatory compliance.

Leaders who understand the value of integrating sustainability deeply into their business strategies can leverage this for more than just compliance or marketing. They transform their organisations into hubs for sustainable innovation and collective action, where conscious choices are snowballed, elevated, and ultimately cultivating sustainability leaders. 

The Psychology of Denial 

Whilst we’ve made great steps, we all know that there’s a lot to go in the shared journey to optimising our route to action. Denial in the context of sustainability often arises from cognitive dissonance, where individuals experience discomfort when confronted with information that conflicts with their existing beliefs or practices. This dissonance can lead to denial as a defence mechanism to reduce discomfort. Factors contributing to denial include:

  • Fear and Threat: People may perceive the implications of climate change as threatening to their way of life or worldview, prompting a denial response to protect themselves from fear of change or loss.
  • Information Overload: The overwhelming amount of information, often complex and sometimes contradictory, can lead to paralysis or denial as individuals may feel incapable of making informed decisions.
  • Sense of Powerlessness: The scale of environmental issues can make individuals feel that their actions are too insignificant to make a difference, leading to denial of one’s role or responsibility in contributing to solutions.

So, How Do We Counteract Denial? 

To effectively bridge the gap between knowledge of sustainability issues and the intent to act on them, it’s crucial to understand and address the specific priorities and concerns of individuals. Alexandra outlines some strategies to foster this transition.

  • Personalisation of Information: Tailoring communication about sustainability to fit the personal circumstances and values of individuals helps in making the information relevant and actionable. “For example, demonstrating how sustainable practices can save money or enhance health may resonate more than abstract environmental benefits. This is one thing that the TripShift app does so well – it’s completely tailored to the user and individual impact is instantly measurable” Alexandra explains. 
  • Simplification of Actions: People often feel overwhelmed by the complexity of sustainable behaviours. Breaking down actions into small, manageable steps that can be easily incorporated into daily routines can encourage initial steps towards broader behavioural changes which are implemented in increasingly manageable ways. 
  • Highlighting Immediate Benefits: While the long-term benefits of sustainability are often emphasised, highlighting immediate, tangible benefits can motivate quicker adoption. For example, improving indoor air quality by reducing reliance on polluting energy sources can have an immediate health benefit, making the sustainability measure more attractive. “For businesses, using the TripShift app and platform is an instant solution to streamline resources, and utilise data to immediately simplify carbon reporting.”

Small Steps Leading to a Movement

The transformation towards sustainable practices is increasingly visible. Alexandra notes the evolution from a time when environmentalism was a fringe activity to today; “we’ve seen a shift from environmentalism as a niche interest to a widely embraced imperative, propelled by global agreements and punctuated by the compelling voices of activists like Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough. Their ability to connect with the public has transformed private concern into public action.”

This shift is also mirrored in the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, which bring the impacts of climate change into everyday discussions, further facilitating a wider acceptance and commitment to sustainable actions. “Each small step taken by individuals and communities can accumulate, creating a momentum that leads to significant societal change,” Alexandra adds. These developments show how increased awareness and personal experience with climate impacts are critical in driving the collective shift towards sustainable mobility and broader environmental responsibility.

Transitioning Knowledge to Action 

TripShift leverages this understanding by offering tools that cater to both types of motivations. Our platform enables organisations to track and manage their mobility emissions effectively, appealing to those driven by regulatory compliance or cost savings, while also resonating with those committed to environmental ethics. This dual approach not only broadens the appeal of our solutions but also enhances impact across different sectors.

The transition from knowledge to action in sustainability requires more than just conveying information; it requires an understanding of the psychological barriers that lead to denial and a strategic approach to making sustainable actions resonate on a personal level. By aligning sustainability initiatives with individual values and needs, and simplifying the process of adopting sustainable behaviours, we can bridge the gap between intent and action, leading to meaningful and lasting change.

You May Also Like…