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4.3.2.5 Lessons Learned from Energy Reduction Studies

In a meta-analysis of 61 research studies and 57 feedback initiatives investigating advanced electricity metering initiatives and feedback programs on reduced residential energy consumption, Ehrhardt-Martinez et al. (2010) identified various motivational techniques which had shown some success. These include descriptive and normative feedback (Cialdini 2003; Schultz et al. 2007), goal setting, public commitments, and rewards (Ehrhardt-Martinez et al. 2010; Tiedemann 2010). A few years earlier, in order to identify how to design better interventions directed toward reducing residential energy use, Wilson and Dowlatabad (2007) reviewed models and theories coming from four diverse perspectives: conventional and behavioral economics, technology adoption theory and attitude-based decision making, social and environmental psychology, and sociology. They reviewed some of the models and theories we have already discussed (e.g., cognitive consistency, TPB, self-efficacy, stages of change, VBN theory) as well as one you will read about later (i.e., diffusion of innovation) (see Sect. 5.2). Their article provides a nice resource for students and scholars interested in learning more about these models and theories. They also provide their own model of the process.

4.3.2.6 A Workplace Model Focusing on Goals

Unsworth et al. (2013) developed a model building on the TPB and VBN theories which identified the psychological conditions under which an organization's sustainability-related interventions are most likely to succeed. They drew on theories of goal hierarchy, goal systems, multiple goals, self-concordance, and values. They argue that organizations promoting employee green behaviors face distinctive challenges because green behaviors and green goals are among many behaviors and goals employees continually manage and are often of low priority and inconsistently activated in a workplace. “Employees may be deciding between working on a report and walking to the recycling bin; while at work, they may be juggling their efficiency goals, their service and relationship goals, their family goals, their career ambition goals, and so forth” (p. 212). It is important to remember that people are more likely to engage in behaviors they see as self-concordant with their values. Leaders can increase employees' perceptions of the self-concordance of the pro-environmental behavior. Employees do not necessarily have to have altruistic or biospheric values. What is important is that the employee sees the proposed behavior as expressing as many personally relevant values or long-term goals as possible, even if they are egoistic values. If an intervention is to succeed, its goals should be efficacious and attractive, self-concordant, in limited conflict with other goals, able to spill over into related behaviors, and seen as achievable. Interventions can address the issue of goal conflict by using location-based cues to refocus people back on the pro-environmental goal. For example, on the Portland Trail Blazer Moda Center campus, trash cans have been replaced with “landfill-bound” and “recycling” receptacles.

4.3.2.7 Best Practices Provided by Pro-Environmental Behavior Theories

These theories suggest individuals charged with promoting sustainability-related initiatives within and between organizations need to help people understand a problem exists and then consider arguments addressing how the proposed action is a good thing to do, how it will significantly address the problem, and how others think it is a good thing to do. Individuals need a strong rationale to act and they are concerned with the positive and negative consequence of an action for their own self-interest as well as for others they care about. People need to feel they have the responsibility and ability to take the proposed action. Emotions such as guilt and fear, within limits, may be stimulated by messages, if really necessary, and daily affect can stimulate pro-environmental behaviors. Recognize that message recipients make assessments: “How many positive/negative personal consequences would result from choosing this pro-environmental option compared to other options?”; “How difficult is performing the pro-environmental option compared to other options?” Behavioral incentives reappear but now we are also focused on the importance of feedback. Once again, we are directed to an individual's need for autonomy (an important face-related concern). Motivation is increased if people are emotionally involved, see the activity as pleasant or satisfying, or think it will help them function successfully in their social world. Old behavioral patterns are among the barriers that hamper individual change, and new behavioral patterns need to be formed and reformed. The collective-action model is useful for those who are interested in mobilizing action such as the ski industry efforts with POW or the Natural Resources Defense Council's work with groups such as the Green Sports Alliance. Action Plan: Building on the various theories and models reviewed in this section, create your own working model for what influences individuals' pro-environmental behaviors in your organization.

 
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