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Strategies for Change

WWF's Strategies for Change project re-examines some of the assumptions that underlie current environmental campaigning, and suggests new evidence-based responses. In particular, the project looks at the importance of collective social values in driving change, and at the ways those values are shaped.

There is a large body of empirical evidence that the values people hold and the goals people pursue are critically important in motivating ambitious change. A lot of current environmental campaigning seeks to identify areas where short-term financial self-interest or the pursuit of social status coincides with environmental aims. But this approach will almost certainly be inadequate to meet the environmental challenges we collectively confront.

Fortunately, there is clear evidence that we can begin to engage with dominant values and sources of identity – and there are strategic interventions that the environment movement can make in order to do so.

WWF’s Strategies for Change project marshals the empirical evidence for a values-based approach to environmental campaigning.


Different Politics, Same Planet

ResPublica | December 13, 2011

Different Politics, Same Planet: Values for Sustainable Development Beyond Left and Right argues that governments must lead a shift in values if we are to transition to a sustainable economy. The report argues that both left and right need to chart a radically different approach to policy making in the future, one that taps into the cultural values of people and their communities in determining responses to today’s profound social, humanitarian and environmental challenges. Public support for government action on the environment is built upon much the same values that underpin public concern for the NHS or universal education. Both left and right must begin to situate people’s natural concern for the environment on a bigger political canvas.

Different Politics, Same Planet is published by ResPublica, supported by WWF-UK and Oxfam, and written by David Boyle, Tom Crompton, Martin Kirk and Guy Shrubsole.

Communicating bigger-than-self problems to extrinsically-oriented audiences

Chilton, P., Crompton, T., Kasser, T., Maio, G. & Nolan, A. | January 25, 2012

This report, published jointly by Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), CPRE, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and WWF-UK, summarizes the results of an interdisciplinary research project conducted jointly by researchers in the School of Psychology at Cardiff University and the Department of Linguistics at Lancaster University.

It investigates expressions of social and environmental concern by people who attach greater than average importance to values of popularity, preserving public image, or wealth. Our team worked with people selected from a large pool of citizens from the Cardiff area who attach higher-than-average importance to extrinsic values, and explores the effects of priming them with intrinsic values before interviewing them about climate change, loss of the British countryside, child mortality in developing countries, and domestic child poverty.

Think Of Me As Evil? Opening the ethical debates in advertising

Published by Public Interest Research Centre and WWF-UK, this report examines the evidence that commercial advertising could exacerbate the social and environmental problems that we collectively confront.

Think Of Me As Evil? presents evidence that advertising may increase overall consumption; that it could promote and normalise a range of behaviours, attitudes and values, many of which are socially and environmentally damaging; that it manipulates individuals on a subconscious level, both children and adults; and that it is so pervasive in modern society as to make the choice of opting-out from exposure virtually impossible.

The report calls on the advertising industry and its clients to take responsibility for demonstrating that the impacts of commercial advertising are benign, and to support precautionary measures until such time as this is demonstrated. It also calls upon civil society organisations to pay much greater attention to commercial advertising and its possible impacts in frustrating delivery on a wide range of social and environmental outcomes.

Common Cause - The Case for Working with our Cultural Values

WWF-UK has partnered with four other organisations - Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Oxfam - to explore the central importance of cultural values in underpinning concern about the issues upon which we each work.

Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values makes the case that civil society organisations can find common cause in working to activate and strengthen a set of helpful 'intrinsic' values, while working to diminish the importance of unhelpful 'extrinsic' values. The report highlights some of the ways in which communications, campaigns, and even government policy, inevitably serve to activate and strengthen some values rather than others.

Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity

The book is freely downloadable from the sidebar or alternatively you can purchase a hardcopy from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk, or our distributor, Greenbooks

This major new publication, written jointly with Professor Tim Kasser (Knox College, Illinois, and author of 'The High Price of Materialism') examines those fundamental aspects of human identity that operate to frustrate approaches to meeting environmental challenges.

The study suggests that some environmental campaigning currently operates inadvertently to exacerbate these unhelpful aspects of identity. It also points to ways in which environmental organisations could begin to work in order to activate more helpful aspects of identity.

Finally, it highlights new opportunities for collaborations across diverse civil society organisations to begin to address fundamental barriers to delivery on a range of concerns - from biodiversity loss to poverty alleviation, and racism to animal welfare abuses. 

"...a clear and important contribution to a realistic response to today’s environmental crisis"
James Gustave Speth

"The new strategy put forward in this superb book is subtle, powerful and based on cutting edge psychological research"
Clive Hamilton

"...a sorely-needed and hopeful resource in a time of environmental and climate dangers"
Robert Cox

"...a huge service to sustainability"
Tim Jackson

Weathercocks and signposts: the environment movement at a crossroads

As our understanding of the scale of environmental challenges deepens, so we are also forced to contemplate the inadequacy of the current responses to these challenges. By and large, these responses retreat from engaging the values that underpin our decisions as citizens, voters and consumers: mainstream approaches to tackling environmental threats do not question the dominance of today's individualistic and materialistic values.

Weathercocks and signposts critically reassesses current approaches to motivating environmentally-friendly behaviour change.

Current behaviour-change strategies are increasingly built on analogy with product marketing campaigns. They often take as given the 'sovereignty' of consumer choice, and the perceived need to preserve current lifestyles intact.

This report constructs a case for a radically different approach. It presents evidence that any adequate strategy for tackling environmental challenges will demand engagement with the values that underlie the decisions we make – and, indeed, with our sense of who we are.

Simple and Painless? The limitations of spillover in environmental campaigning

It’s often argued that business, government or non-governmental organisations working for pro-environmental behavioural change should begin by encouraging people to take ‘simple and painless’ steps, which will ‘spillover’ into ever more ambitious – and perhaps more environmentally significant – behaviours. But what does the evidence from social psychology have to say about this strategy?

Simple and painless? examines the evidence on whether or not a reliance on ‘spillover’ is a defensible strategy for environmental communicators and campaigners to adopt.

It concludes that they should not rely upon this approach, but goes on to highlight some of the conditions under which it’s more likely to work.

The Natural Change Project

The Natural Change Project was developed as an innovative response to the growing evidence that current environmental campaigns are not resulting in the depth of behaviour change necessary. Using a pioneering values-based approach to inspire a diverse group of individuals, the project incorporated ideas from eco psychology, personal development, outdoor experiences, mentoring and leadership skills. 

Natural Change -psychology and sustainability reveals the process of change that took place for The Natural Change Project participants, the workshop approaches used and makes valuable recommendations for future behaviour change campaigns.

Find out more about the Natural Change Project
Request a printed version of the report

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For more information, please contact:

Dr Tom Crompton,
Change Strategist,
The Living Planet Centre
Brewery Road
Surrey, GU21 4LL

Email: tcrompton@wwf.org.uk
Telephone: 0777 6467553
Skype: tom_crompton

You will find additional information on this and related work at valuesandframes.org

Our book, 'Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity' can be purchased from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or our distributor, Greenbooks, or download a copy for free below


Communicating bigger-than-self problems to extrinsically-oriented audiences

Different Politics, Same Planet

Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity. The full book

Overview document - Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity.

Weathercocks and signposts - Strategies for change report

Simple & painless

The Natural Change Report '09

Natural Change Executive Summary