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Behaviour Change Research

Climate Change Behaviours Research Programme 2010-13

The 'Climate Change Behaviours Research Programme' (CCBRP) features a range of research projects, both in-house and commissioned work, to better understand: the behaviour areas that are central to addressing climate change and the most effective mechanisms for stimulating, facilitating and supporting new and more sustainable ways of living. The CCBRP has fed into the Low Carbon Behaviours Strategy (2013) and the preceding Public Engagement Strategy (2010).

Published Reports

The ISM (Individual, Social and Material) Progress Report, published on 30th October 2013, is a short report highlighting progress to date in disseminating and using the ISM tool within the Scottish Government and its agencies, as well as other environmental organisations. It provides an update on the workshops that have taken place to date and those that are planned for the future to improve the behavioural aspects of RPP2 policies, spanning transport, housing, waste and farming. The output is a short progress report.

The Low Carbon Behaviours Framework - Key Behaviour Areas - Data for Scotland report was published in October 2013. The report assesses progress being made on the 10 Key Behaviour Areas of high household GHG emissions, where action by government or others could be taken to encourage or enable behavioural change. The report covers household energy, personal transport, food and consumption. The overarching finding is that there has been progress with one-off behaviours such as installing home insulation and energy efficient boilers, and on the transport side a clear trend towards the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles. However, behaviours that require a lifestyle change, such as those that require new habits to be formed, have shown less movement. The main output is a research report.

Influencing Behaviours: Moving Beyond the Individual – the ISM Tool – The ISM approach has evolved out of research undertaken as part of the CCBRP. The ISM tool offers a practical way for policy makers and practitioners to consider all of the contexts that influence people’s behaviours - Individual, Social and Material - and the various different factors within those three contexts. The guidance on the ISM Tool consists of a User Guide which explains the tool, with case studies, and how to apply it in a workshop setting, whilst an accompanying Technical Guide provides more background and detail on the ISM tool and the different factors that influence people’s behaviours.

The Review of the Climate Challenge Fund has investigated in depth the impacts of 21 community projects across Scotland looking to reduce carbon emissions and explored how they have been successful (June 2011). Research outputs include a summary report, main report and technical appendix.

International Review of Behaviour Change Initiatives - This key report from the University of Manchester reviews a range of interventions that have attempted to reduce the carbon intensity of consumption practices. The report also proposes a framework for understanding and developing behavioural change initiatives, based on Individual/Social/Material contexts (February 2011). Project outputs include a research report and conference presentation.

The Impact of Workplace Initiatives on Low Carbon Behaviours - This research, commissioned jointly by the Scottish Government, Defra and the 2020 Climate Group, investigates ‘what works’ in delivering low-carbon behavioural initiatives in the workplace. Research outputs include a main report, case study report and good practice guide for employers.


  • What Works in Behaviour Change - this conference focused on pragmatic solutions to how individuals and households can reduce their carbon emissions.
  • Values and Climate Change Behaviours – this conference considered the role of values in influencing sustainable behaviours and discussed what more could be done to embed values-based approaches.

Working Papers

Influencing Behaviours Evidence Library

A document library listing key sources of evidence on pro-environmental behaviours and behaviour change has been compiled as part of the CCBRP.  The evidence library covers literature on a range of topics such as travel behaviours, home energy, food choices, behaviour change theory, and communicating climate change messages.   

This resource will be of interest to those involved in climate change research, policy or communications, as well as anyone involved in designing and running behaviour change initiatives. 

Research Groups Supported by the CCBRP

The Scottish Government is supporting two academic research groups with Defra and the Economic and Social Research Council: the Sustainable Practices Research Group (SPRG) and the Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (SLRG). These groups, based at hubs at Manchester and Surrey, are carrying out a range of research on sustainable behaviours with relevance to Scotland. A number of projects have sites of inquiry in Scotland, and Edinburgh University is one of the partner universities with both SPRG and SLRG.

At a Scottish Government launch event for these research groups, presentation were delivered on both SPRG and SLRG.