When convenience is the enemy of energy conservation

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Exciting new gadgets such as the Amazon Dash button highlights the role convenience plays in clinching customer loyalty. But there’s an unintended consequence related to convenience: overconsumption.

We know from Eco Pulse that convenience trumps the environment for many Americans, and although about 70 percent of Americans claim they’re searching for greener products, the story in our numbers is that most of them actually just want sustainability to be automatic. They’re essentially saying, “Just bake it into your products and services so I don’t have to think about it, and let me keep buying the stuff I want to buy anyway and just feel less guilty about it.”

Our counsel to many companies would be exactly that: give them what they want, bake it in and build your marketing messages around the fact that you’ve taken care of the environment on their behalf.

But that doesn’t work if we’re actually trying to get people to change their behaviors. In many cases, when we make sustainability automatic, we make conservation harder.

Webinar: Changing Behavior Through Purposeful Work: The Journey to 100% Engagement

June 23, 2015, noon CDT
Register here

Every business is facing the challenge of how to engage employees around sustainability. When employees are empowered to be instrumental agents of change, they become more purpose-driven, innovative, productive — and yes, engaged.

But how do business leaders design and deliver programs that work? Forward-thinking companies are developing programs that involve designing for both deep and broad engagement.

In this webcast, leaders and practitioners will discuss their experiences in influencing human behavior and creating an organizational culture for the greater good. You will learn how leading practitioners are developing programs that influence employee behavior and work to create a purposeful organizational culture of sustainability. You’ll also learn the three essential steps to achieve your employee engagement goals:

  1. Raise awareness with behavioral design
  2. Utilize technology to promote sustainable habits
  3. Change attitudes through immersion in corporate culture

This is why people are so clueless about how much energy they use

Read the full story from the Washington Post.

Nobody really disputes that saving energy is a good thing — we pay less on our bills when we do, and cause fewer carbon emissions to boot. Getting people to cut back, though, has often proved pretty tricky. We like our comforts and routines. And, if a new study is to believed, we widely misperceive where the bulk of our energy use comes from — thinking that devices such as computers use much more energy than they actually use, even as we underestimate the contributions of major energy gluttons, such as home and water heating.

Bringing behavioral psychology to composting

Read the full post at Harvard Green.

With the Environmental Action Committee’s annual Earth Day Festival following on the tail of the Presidential Panel on Climate Change, Harvard Climate Week, and Heat Week, the month of April presented ample opportunities for the Harvard community to engage with issues of climate change, sustainability, and clean energy. In addition to learning from two panel discussions on both the future of energy and divestment, I also had the opportunity to discuss the issue of composting.

Environmental management system ISO 14001: effective waste minimisation in small and medium enterprises in India

Mitrabinda Singh, Martin Brueckner, Prasanta Kumar Padhy (2015). “Environmental management system ISO 14001: effective waste minimisation in small and medium enterprises in India.” Journal of Cleaner Production 102, 285-301. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.04.028. Contact your local library to obtain a copy of the article.

Abstract: Numerous empirical and conceptual studies describe waste minimisation as a key environmental performance indicator for industry. ISO 14001certification in this regard is widely considered the tool of choice for driving waste minimisation efforts. To this day, however, the evidence remains mixed as it pertains to the effectiveness of ISO 14001 in helping firms reduce waste, especially in developing countries. This paper explores the waste minimisation efforts among Indian small and medium enterprises. Specifically, improvements in waste minimisation are analysed from small and medium enterprises operating in the cities of Delhi and Noida. Our proposed model is tested for a model-fit, and the hypotheses are tested through regression coefficient (β) scores to determine the influence of ISO 14001 on the degree of waste minimisation among certified and non-certified companies. The data reveal that ISO 14001 certification alone helped account for a 25% increase in waste minimisation in certified companies after controlling for other critical factors (correlated to the variable ‘waste minimisation’) that may influence this relationship. The analytical tools described in this paper lend themselves to be applied to similar research problems in future studies. The study provides baseline data for further research into ISO 14001 effectiveness in the Indian SME context – a field with still only limited research insights – and offers policy prompts for targeted environmental management improvements in Indian firms.

A comprehensive literature review on, and the construction of a framework for, environmental legitimacy, accountability and proactivity

Bakhtiar Alrazi, Charl de Villiers, Chris J. van Staden (2015). “A comprehensive literature review on, and the construction of a framework for, environmental legitimacy, accountability and proactivity.” Journal of Cleaner Production 102, 44–57. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.05.022. This is a subscription journal. Contact your local library to obtain a copy of the article.

Abstract: This paper identifies three conceptually distinct, but interrelated concepts regarding corporate environmental behaviour from the literature – environmental legitimacy, environmental accountability, and environmental proactivity – and shows how they can be integrated into a single framework. This is done in a context where prior studies in the literature do not relate these concepts to each other or place the concepts within a meaningful context, nor integrate them into a single framework. The framework demonstrates an organisational journey towards achieving legitimacy in environmental endeavours. Environmental legitimacy is conditional upon the public evaluation of corporate environmental performance and environmental reporting (environmental accountability), which in turn, requires organisations to invest in environmental management and accounting systems and stakeholder engagement (environmental proactivity). The paper identifies company, stakeholder and other characteristics that influence the constructs in the framework and also propose a research agenda based on this framework. Environmental performance constitutes the central concept in the framework, acknowledging that improved environmental performance promotes the ultimate goal of sustainability. The framework suggests that the judicious management of environmental performance and reporting, the two components of environmental accountability, results in environmental legitimacy. Furthermore, environmental accountability can be enhanced by environmental proactivity, a concept comprising environmental management and environmental accounting, as well as stakeholder engagement. This synthesis of the factors that influence and contribute to environmental performance is the framework’s main contribution.

My not-so-green millennial

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

We’ve all heard the stereotype: Millennials really care about the environment. We’ve seen studies such as the one published by Morgan Stanley, which finds millennials are three times more likely to seek employment with a company because of its stance on social and/or governmental issues and twice as likely to invest in funds that target specific social or environmental outcomes.

We know what they think but what do millennials really do?

As both the mother of a millennial and a researcher tracking self-reported sustainable behaviors over the past 10 years, I’ll tell you what the answer is: Not as much as you might think.