How many times have you gone shopping while hungry and bought more products than you actually needed? Or invested in clothes that you have only worn 2-3 times? How many times have you had food spoiled in the fridge? Have you ever left the light bulb on for a few hours? Or chosen to buy several cheap products instead of 2 qualitative ones?
These are just a few negative actions we tend to do in our daily lives. Fortunately, we manage to become aware of these actions, which seem small, but nevertheless, accumulate and add up to damage our planet. And awareness leads to monitoring our actions.
Some of us come to realise that the way we choose to act on a daily basis is wrong, so we become aware of the negative effects and seek to correct them somehow. Especially since, according to NASA, it’s more than 95% likely that human activity is causing the planet to get warmer. Which should be a wake-up call for us!
This is where the new approach to business comes in: Going Green. Most of us have noticed lately how a business promotes sustainability as its main feature. Why do you think this is happening? To answer the question, we can refer to two factors: the psychology of sustainability and sustainable development.
Sustainable development is the actual act of living sustainably or supporting a sustainable infrastructure through action, which business tends to do in practice. Whereas sustainability psychology often looks at how and why people choose a sustainable lifestyle and what drives these reasons and decisions. It looks at how and why people make sustainable choices while also examining the impact that sustainable decisions have on people’s mental health and well-being (APA, 2011).
If we link the two concepts, we could conclude that companies start from a real problem, come up with a solution to it, and go further on showcasing their image as a sustainable brand. In this way, they activate a signal in the minds of consumers that through their company, they can have the lifestyle they want without feeling guilty about contributing to the degradation of the planet.
We will sum it all up in a psychological term that we will keep in mind when discussing people, actions, sustainability, and change: Sustainable behaviour. This kind of behaviour generally encompasses a series of actions designed to protect both the physical and natural environment, the physical and social environment. Human behaviour plays a paramount role in the emergence and sustenance of environmental problems; that is why a fundamental shift in people’s behaviour is required (Oskamp, 2000).
How can we implement this behaviour in society? It is obviously much more convenient to drive everywhere, to order many products online (plastic-wrapped products, boxes, etc.) than to wait in the cold for the bus, and when it comes, not have a seat on it or exactly the product you want not to be in the store. But nevertheless, I’m sure that if there were more options from local authorities to facilitate this sustainable behaviour for people, things would work much easier. Campaigns to promote the sustainability of certain brands are useful. Especially for audiences who have already realized the importance. But how many people are in this target group? How could a country implement such campaigns to increase the number of people who understand the need? Certainly, by promoting specific events, and exposing the benefits, both for the environment and for individuals. A series of researchers (Corral-Verdugo, V., Mireles-Acosta, J., Tapia-Fonllem, C., & Fraijo-Sing, B.) conducted in 2011 research showing that there is a positive relationship between sustainable behaviour and happiness, two important psychological factors. According to the results, it could be assumed that the more pro-environmental, altruistic, frugal, and fair a person is, the more happiness he or she feels. So, who doesn’t want to be happy? What do you think? Would a campaign that illustrates two parallel worlds work? Degrading the world, unhappy people VS saving the world, happy people.
Of course, courier companies enjoy the success of online sales and those in the IT field who create websites for online shops. But are there really no systems we can operate more optimally for the big house we share? If you still think it’s all about money and economic growth, well we can’t tie that excuse down too much. The long-held belief that subjective well-being is dependent on economic growth has long been disconfirmed (e.g. the ‘Easterlin paradox’, Easterlin, 1974). Psychology can help transform individuals’ focus away from consumption and towards “subjective well-being independent of material wealth” (Hunecke, 2013, p. 9), as a necessary and complementary measure alongside a cultural transformation – ultimately, the goal should be to make humans ‘citizens’ again, not first and foremost ‘consumers’ (Raworth, 2017, p. 84).
Educating the public, promoting the benefits, integrating psychology into the public’s approach, supporting businesses that are trying to change the system to a sustainable one – what do you think is the ideal intervention to implement, combining psychology with marketing and entrepreneurship?
- Going Green: Benefits of Sustainability in Business. (2021, May 5). Maryville Online. https://online.maryville.edu/blog/importance-of-environmental-awareness-when-running-a-business/
- Corral-Verdugo, V., Mireles-Acosta, J., Tapia-Fonllem, C., & Fraijo-Sing, B. (2011). Happiness as Correlate of Sustainable Behavior: A Study of Pro-Ecological, Frugal, Equitable and Altruistic Actions That Promote Subjective Wellbeing.
- Oskamp, S. (2000). A sustainable future for humanity? How can psychology help? American Psychologist, 55, 496-508.
- Easterlin, R. A. (1974). Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence. In P. David & M. S. Reder (Eds.), Essays in Honour of Moses Abramovitz (89–125). Massachusetts Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-205050-3.50008-7
- Hunecke, M. (2013). Psychological resources for sustainable lifestyles. A report from Denkwerk Zukunft – Foundation for cultural renewal. Denkwerk Zukunft. http://www.denkwerkzukunft.de/downloads/reportpsychologicalresources.PDF