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How to create sustainable behaviour change in your life and work

by Apr 22, 2021Employee engagement, Impact, Sustainability0 comments

If you like to stay on top of the news, you have likely realised that the reality of our climate emergency becomes more evident with each passing day. This can scare and overwhelm even the most optimistic of us. However, this is far from the time to give up. On the contrary, we must stay strong in our determination to make changes. Each of us ought to make more efforts towards sustainable behaviour changes, both in our private lives and at work. So today we wanted to remind you that you are not alone on this journey towards sustainable behaviour change.

Steps towards sustainable behaviour changes

Any behaviour change is challenging and it is rarely a clear and linear path. We get lost, question our choices, and don’t always have the energy for investing in our good behaviours. Some days are harder than others, but the key is accepting that we make mistakes and still persevere.

Stages of behaviour change
Stages of behaviour change.
Source: Will Allen, 2021, “Influencing practice change: An introduction to behaviour change models and strategies”, Learning for Sustainability

1.     Sustainability education and environmental awareness

First of all, we must understand that we are dealing with unprecedented environmental challenges that already affect all of us, some more than others. Secondly, we need to be aware of the link between human behaviour and choices and sustainability. The truth is that every choice we make has a certain impact, so ought to train ourselves into actively thinking about this more and more often.

The environment is a complex matter and many issues we face are linked in ways we wouldn’t expect. It is easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged by it. However, putting our global issues out of our minds is not the solution. It begins with being mindful of the world’s challenges and making a continuous and active effort to understand them.

Here I would like to underline the word ‘continuous’. Even people with strong environmental backgrounds have something new to learn every day. Moreover, our understanding of the issues becomes stronger with the passage of time and the tireless efforts of researchers and scientists. That is why it is essentials that each of us stays informed, critical, and curious.

Sustainability education
Sustainable behaviour change must start with a better understanding of sustainability challenges.

2.     An honest look into our behaviours

Every positive behaviour change starts with acknowledging there is a problem. Many times, our choices and behaviours are unconscious and have been shaped by society and our background. The good news is that we humans can change any of our behaviours with some degree of sustained effort.

Most people want to live a comfortable life without harming anything or anyone. But the truth is we all have a personal footprint and most of our behaviours are just what society deems as ‘normal’. The problem is that this brought us to the brink of a massive environmental catastrophe that is continuously getting out of hand. The status quo is no longer an option because that is what led us here.

That is why we need to be extra critical about our behaviours, both in our personal lives and at work. We must start to question our choices and look for better alternatives in everything that we do.

As a start, the internet is full of information about the negative impact of our behaviours. Also, there are many online footprint calculators that can give you a good start and apps that help you track your behaviour and inspire you to make changes.

Evaluation of lifestyle and choices
Sustainable behaviour change requires the continuous evaluation of our lifestyle and choices.

3.     Making small efforts towards more sustainable behaviour changes

Change cannot happen overnight and is rarely effortless. It can be scary and intimidating. When it comes to climate change and the environment, it can feel like fighting an already lost battle. When paired with a general lack of care and awareness, it is easy to fall into the trap of defining change as too difficult or not worth it.

But things that are worth fighting for are rarely easy. And I find it hard to think of a more meaningful fight than the survival of our species. But I don’t want to put more pressure on you – none of us holds the absolute power when it comes to the future of humankind, but it is a collective effort.

Mistakes are allowed. Being imperfect is acceptable. Don’t let that discourage you. Invest time and energy in creating new behaviours at your own pace, but try to do it in a sustained manner. Work towards small and attainable goals and allow yourself to celebrate your successes, even the ones that may not sound like much. Positive behaviour changes always involve effort, so make sure you take a moment to be proud of your achievements.

Small sustainable behaviour changes
Small behaviour changes can in time lead to dramatic lifestyle transformations.

4.     Support systems

This can all feel like a lonely journey, but it doesn’t have to be so. Reach out to friends, family, and colleagues that are working on creating similar sustainable behaviour changes or have more experience with this. You can also join online or offline groups focusing on the topic you’re interested in.

For example, if you would like to eat more plant-based meals, join a cooking community or an online group where people share recipes. If you are interested in lowering your consumption patterns, join a community where people exchange or donate goods. If you are struggling with something, the chances for countless other people to deal with the same issues are very high. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This can be done at the workplace as well, as there are many behaviour changes we can make when it comes to our work environment and the way we approach our tasks and responsibilities. If you are in a management position, make sure your employees have a safe space where they can discuss their sustainable behaviour changes and ask for help without feeling embarrassed or judged. Moreover, as an employee, you are part of a workplace community. Discuss with your colleagues about sustainable behaviour changes in your work and private life and see how you can motivate and help each other.

Support systems for sustainable behaviour changes
Support systems are crucial for encouraging and keeping you on the right track.

5.     Maintain and inspire

Keeping the momentum going once on track with a new sustainable behaviour change can be tricky. Make sure your environment enables you to continue on your sustainable path and that you are surrounded by people who understand your journey. Remember to kindly explain to them why this is important to you and how their encouragement would help you. If you still face a lot of resistance, engage them in an honest discussion and see why they feel this way. It may be that they have some old misconceptions that can be addressed or a negative experience that you could both learn from.

If you are consistent in your sustainable behaviour changes, this will surely inspire the ones around you as well. Many people are now aware of how their choices and habits affect environmental and social sustainability. By staying informed and being open about your behaviour changes, you will naturally lead the people around you to ask themselves questions and look into their own lifestyles. Moreover, for a lot of us, some behaviour changes sound like an impossible challenge that we may never dare to attempt. However, having someone in our lives that succeeded and has been maintaining that behaviour can be a massive source of encouragement. You can be that support for other people in your life.

When it comes to the workplace, like in the case of building a sustainability culture, leading by example is essential. If you want to encourage your employees and colleagues to adopt sustainable behaviour changes, be open about your own experience and inspire and challenge them in your discussions. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” didn’t become a cliché for nothing.

Inspire change
Maintaining the new sustainable behaviour will also inspire the ones around you to do the same.

Sustainable behaviour changes at work

When it comes to sustainable behaviour changes in an organisation, the process starts with raising awareness of sustainability as well. The next step is supporting employees to build their knowledge of sustainability and sustainable behaviour changes, followed by the employees’ buy-in, as they actively choose to make an effort and apply the changes in their work lives.

As the theoretical part comes to an end, it’s time for the integration and practice of the newly learned sustainable behaviour changes. This is where the aforementioned support systems and leading by example play essential roles.

Finally, the last step is promoting the behaviour changes across departments and stakeholders. All these steps support employees in cultivating behaviour change towards fostering a sustainability culture in the organisation.

Sustainable behaviour change at work
Sustainable behaviour change at work is a team challenge.

2030 Builders Sustainability Engagement Platform

With employees and managers in mind, we designed an inclusive experience built on purpose and ownership, in order to create organic behavioural change that delivers a long-term impact.

Our methodology is based on technology, gamification, and co-creation. It is an employee-centric experience that focuses on your organisation’s workforce being the impact makers – as it should be.

Find out more about how 2030 Builders can support your organisation in generating sustainable behaviour change by booking a free demo with us.

Sustainable change
The surest way towards sustainable change starts with us.
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