From engagement theory to action
What are the elements that influence our behavior in favor of the environment? The Green Office uses theory to encourage behavioral change in the ULiège community!
1 : Personal values
2 : Awareness of the problem
3 : Sense of responsibility
4 : Moral standards: rules of conduct we set for ourselves based on our values
5 : Perceived social norms: imitation and expectations of my cultural environment
6: Attitudes toward the behavior
7: Norms (moral and social)
8: Perceived control: feeling of having control over the outcome whether positive or not
9: Behavioral intention: positive or negative willingness to adopt a new behavior
11: Objective constraints: what practically prevents us from implementing a new behavior
The global model for determining actions in favor of the environment (Klöckner, 2013) shows that the implementation of an individual environmentally relevant behavior is influenced by a multitude of variables.
Theadoption of pro-environmental behavior is directly determined by intentions (9) and objective constraints (11). In addition, this model incorporates habits (10) as a third direct predictor of behavior. These habits also act as a moderator between intention and behavior, meaning that if habits are strong, the relationship between intention and behavior is weakened.
As for intentions (9), they generally incorporate the influence ofattitude towards a behavior (6), norms (moral and social) (7) and perceived control over the action (8).
Moral norms (4) are defined by an individual on the basis of his or her sense of responsibility (3) towards a problem/issue, which in turn stems from whether or not he or she is aware (2) of the problem. Finally, awareness of a problem is influenced by the values (1) inculcated in the individual.
The path from values (1) to behavior is a long one, and can be interrupted by many variables. Basing one's strategy on values therefore presents a high risk, as the path is indirect and many variables can interfere. Habits are therefore a powerful predictor, and old habits must be deactivated as a matter of priority if a change in behavior is to have any chance of being sustained over time.
What the Green Office does
For each of the model's variables, the Green Office proposes a solution via its commitment program, and more specifically the ACTION pillar of this program, which includes challenges to adopt new sustainable consumption habits and Sustainable Campus projects.
Adopting environmentally-friendly behavior starts with awareness of the problem, which is why the Green Office always includes a "Scientific Information" section (a) in its challenges. This section presents figures to help participants understand the scale of the problem, but also the positive impact of existing solutions.
As far as a sense of responsibility is concerned, Green Office surveys have shown that students feel they have a duty to take action for the climate, and are willing to change their habits. The Green Office therefore proposes challenges (b ) to support this desire to take responsibility for sustainable development by changing their behavior towards more sustainable consumption. The Green Office also aims to raise awareness of individual(importance of small gestures ) and collective responsibility for climate change.
In terms of social standards, the engagement program influences them through highly visible activities on campus (d) organized as part of Campus Durable projects (e.g. water fountains, sustainable welcome pack, GSM harvest, cork harvest, sustainable breakfasts, etc.). In addition, social norms are also being influenced through the gathering of a community on the collaborative platform Alaya (d) with already over 2700 registrants and through the twinning of challenges to reach students in the Wallonie-Bruxelles Federation (d).
To ensure that theattitude towards the proposedbehavior is positive, the Green Office promotes the beneficial aspects of sustainable development (on the planet, our well-being and society) and more specifically eco-responsible habits. This is reflected directly in the challenge program, which is fun and entertaining (e), as well as in the competitions (e). Taking action becomes fun!
To change behavior, we need to feel that the change is under our control (perceived control). Students can easily realize the feasibility of the proposed challenges. We therefore support students by presenting existing initiatives (f) at local level, with tips & tricks and interactive maps(sustainable stores, water fountains ) that simplify the implementation of the new behavior. All this increases the sense of control over action.
Awareness-raising, Sustainable Campus projects, the fun and playful nature of the challenges, and the support given to students in their efforts to adopt eco-responsible behavior, all help to ensure that students have a positive attitude towards the proposed change in behavior.
For a new behavior to become a long-term habit, it is recommended to maintain the effort for 3 weeks (g). This is why challenges generally last 3 weeks. What's more, once a student has already completed one or more challenges, it's likely that he/she will go on to complete others, facilitated by the experience he/she has gained from implementing them in his/her daily life.
Last but not least, the Green Office helps to remove constraints on changing habits on campus through the various Campus Durables (h) projects. For example, the obstacle to taking one's water bottle because it's not easy to refill it during the day is lifted by the presence of new water fountains installed by the Water4All team on the campuses!
The content of this page is the result of Laura Germain's project-thesis for her HEC Master's degree in Management Sciences, specializing in the management of social and sustainable enterprises (2021-2022).