All information copyright to Spud Marshall, Lora Metanchuk and Rebecca Dahl. Research reference list available here.

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Why is the sustainability of a behaviour important?

Behaviours do not happen in isolation. They have effects on the individual performing the behaviour, the people they interact with, other behaviours and the products and services they might require.

Even with the best of intentions, campaigns may promote a behaviour which has unintended contributions towards unsustainability (TerraChoice Environmental Marketing calls this the “seven sins of greenwashing”). This is highlighted by Don Carli of the Institute for Sustainable Communication who discusses the potential hidden cost of pixels vs paper in the ‘environmental’ switch from paper to online billing. This illustrates that some behaviours, which initially appear to be ‘green,’ have underlying environmental or social costs which are not immediately obvious.

A major component of our Masters course is the application of frameworks for strategic sustainable development in order to understand the true contributions of products and services to unsustainability. This approach uses a definition based on four system conditions for ecological sustainability. Additional guiding criteria may be added to include economic and other factors that are important to an organisation. In application to behaviour change campaigns, having guiding criteria is important to navigate trade-offs and ensure a promoted change helps shift society towards sustainability.

Our research will include a guide to provide direction for campaigners to analyse behaviours for contributions towards unsustainability.