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Reflecting Ireland – An insight into consumer behavioural change in Ireland - Sustainability

29 November 2021


For years, communication about climate change focused on driving awareness and a sense of urgency. With awareness and concern about climate change now at an all-time high, no doubt helped by the increasing salience of extreme weather events, the challenge has evolved. The priority now is to convince people to take action and secondly moving them from intention to action itself.

Our research conducted in partnership with Kantar reveals that despite a high awareness and concern about climate change and it being important to us to be seen as environmentally friendly, the link between how we want to be seen and the actions we are prepared to take is tenuous. Our research identifies that there is a significant Intention – Action Gap when it comes to being more sustainable in our everyday lives. We’ve teamed up with Behavioural Scientist Claire Cogan of BehaviourWise to understand what lies behind the behaviour we are seeing.

Behavioural research (1) shows that “being green” is not a particularly strong motivator to behave in a more climate friendly way. Behavioural science suggests that if we want to change behaviour it’s important to take account of what else is going on in people’s lives, what’s important to them, and what will motivate them to change.

  • Two thirds of us (63%) feel it’s important to us to be seen as environmentally friendly. However the link between how we want to be seen and the actions we are prepared to take is tenuous. A similar proportion (63%) believe our household is already doing all it can to reduce our carbon footprint, yet we know a lot more needs to be done.
  • Climate change is just one of many issues of concern to Irish people today, and it is not the most salient. It ranks 7th in issues we feel need to be addressed, after the cost of living (53%), access to quality healthcare (49%), homelessness (42%), the price of housing (40%), Covid-19 (33%) and affordable rents (32%). While 1 in 4 of us (25%) regard it as one of the top 3 important issues to be addressed, only 6% see it as the most important.
  • While almost half of us (46%) believe we bear some personal responsibility to help address climate change, just under 1 in 4 of us (23%) believe we bear primary responsibility. More of us (27%) believe it is first and foremost the Government’s responsibility to address, and 16% of us believe it is primarily the responsibility of heavy industry.
  • Less than half of us (45%) believe our personal actions would make any difference, and just under a third (27%) believe there is not enough evidence to link our personal behaviour to climate change.
  • All of this points to the fact that despite high levels of awareness and concern about climate change, there is still a job to be done to convince many of us in Ireland that it is one of the most important issues facing us, that we each bear personal responsibility to take action, and that our personal actions will make a difference.
  • Overall we see evidence of the Intention - Action Gap in our findings, where people want to behave in a particular way but struggle to translate it into action. There is also an inverse relationship between which actions we believe contribute most to climate change and which we find easiest to commit to.
  • Our Research shows that relying solely on concern about climate change to motivate people to take action is rarely enough. We know that most climate friendly behaviours deliver a savings benefit. Evidence from behavioural research (1) shows that focusing on the opportunity to save money as a primary message, supported by the benefits for the climate as a secondary one, is a much more powerful motivator than focusing on benefits for the climate alone

You can check out our full #ReflectingIreland Report here.

Find out about how to live a more climate-friendly lifestyle with tips from behavioural science here

(1) Behavioural Architects, September 2021:Tackling Climate Change from Home: How to Turn Good Intentions into Positive Actions. A research report by The Behavioural Architects Commissioned by Smart Energy GB

The content of this blog does not constitute advice and is for general information purposes only. Readers should always seek professional advice before relying on anything stated in the blog. Some of the links above bring you to external websites. Your use of an external website is subject to the terms of that site.


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