Plastics campaigns that work

by Livvy Drake

During a live ‘Behaviour Changemakers’ Mentoring session, on communicating campaigns, we used the behavioural economics prompts from the ‘Campaigns that Work‘ website. The Campaigns that work team have used key behavioural economics principles and analysed 50 plastics campaigns highlighting which principles were being used and the implications.

As part of the mentoring session, we used the prompts from the ‘Campaigns that Work’ wheel for ideas for the mentee’s campaigns as well as analysing the ‘The Big Plastic Count‘ which is coming up in May. 

These were the principles we observed by looking at ‘The Big Plastic Count’ website and video:

Customising – The video reflected segmented and diverse audiences. Plus made a play on the ways that different people types would do the count.

Using Good Norms – As above. Also showing the number of people who have signed up to demonstrate that other people are doing it.

Specifying action – There is a clear and simple action to take- count plastic. Other plastic campaigns often tell people WHAT NOT to do or just talk about the problem.

Catalyzing commitments – There is a sign-up request.

Showing it matters – Emphasising how many people are taking action is one way the campaign does this. Plus in the video it says the findings will be used to lobby Governments.

However, it would be good to know more about the purpose of counting, and what will be done with the ‘evidence’ on the website and in social media. 

Altruism – Doing things for the ‘good of the planet’ or other people, is a common angle in plastics campaigns but one to be used with caution; as it doesn’t express ‘what’s in it for the individual’. 

Allowing distance –  An issue needs to feel local and happening now for action, so focusing on other countries is immobilising. The video for the Plastic Count is very much focused on the UK.
However, the headline image on the website looks like it is from a foreign country (probably where plastic waste is ending up). 

Reinforcing bad norms – Repeatedly ‘Campaigns that Work’ found campaigns focused on the scale of the problem and the actions that created the problem. This can actually have the effect of reinforcing undesirable behaviours.
We were concerned that the Big Plastic Count may have this impact, by focusing on the scale of the problem. So hearing from people who have changed their behaviours based on doing this activity would be good to counter it.

One of the ‘Behaviour Changemakers’ mentees is going to be running a local Big Plastics Count with her school and community, so we used this session to consider how she can make it more local, and emphasise how many local people are taking action. 

She highlighted how she taps into positive emotions, another element on the wheel, for her campaigns using the pride that the children feel if their class wins an environmental challenge.

Want to better understand how to use behaviour change for your campaigns?

Get to grips with behaviour change theory with our introductory workshop, so you can have more impact in your work. Applying behavioural science will allow you to:

  • Identify the barriers and motivations to your desired action
  • Implement your strategies and meet your targets
  • Inspire others to take action in a way that resonates with them
  • Reach people outside your echo chamber- Influence those around you 

For one-to-one support book a discovery call

See more posts from the blog: