We know most people want things to change. In our recent survey* we found that majority of the UK (63%) agrees that we’re heading rapidly for an ecological catastrophe.
People also want to change themselves, to do more, and be a strong part of the solution. A quarter (26%) of people in the UK think that they themselves aren’t doing enough. And 63% think the general public overall should be doing more. But what’s stopping them? Or you? Or me?
Information and education are, of course, vital. But the overwhelmingly urgent scientific messages are now inescapable. There are more nuanced reasons why we don’t do what we think we should. Many people are paralysed and have disassociated with the debate. Some feel like they have no control. Others think it’s too late. Some think it’s not their job.
Important and well-intentioned environmental messaging often scares people, or just blends into the background because we’re so used to hearing about it. To manage these barriers, we have some broad recommendations to create environmental messaging that is motivating and provocative.
People can feel like they’re fighting a losing battle. 7 in 10 think the UK government and big business also aren’t doing enough. It’s hard to believe your actions can help, especially when thinking about the big picture. Breaking the picture down so you’re showing communities, habitats over global scenarios, especially those that are known well to your audiences, makes things feel manageable.
Academic research has taken place showing the vital importance of connecting people to nature. Only three in ten people feel substantially connected to nature. To create concern for nature under threat, you first need to cultivate an awe and respect through your communications.
Doomers are now considered a bigger problem than deniers.
We asked about a range of emotional reasons why people might want to take action for the environment, and we found that hope is by far the biggest incentive. Without any sense of redemption, people don’t see the point. Address this in your approach by prioritising showing progress. You need to give people something to buy into that already exists; don’t let people think they, or you, are starting from scratch.
Anxiety about the climate cross demographics. We asked if people might be prompted to take action for the environment because they felt anxious about the future of the planet and biodiversity, or because they felt worried about the problems that future generations will need to manage, and there were no significant differences by age group. There were some age related differences in other questions, but these were the exceptions, not the rules. Assuming all young people are eco activists (when they report that they do less for the environment than their older counterparts) is misguided.
As humans, there’s lots that we share, but our research shows that different groups of people have different emotional levers that can be pulled. If we divide people by their values and motivations around the environment, rather than their demographics, we find more effective and resonant ways to tell our stories. While hope is a motivator for most people, other levers we can pull, such as anger, achievement, pride, fear or curiosity are far more nuanced.
Our new Eco-mindsets segmentation does this. By grouping people by their relationship with the environment, from Change-makers, to Justice defenders to Anxious escapists, we can understand who are audience is, and catalyse them into action and engagement.
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*All data is based on a March 2023 UK survey made representative through interlocking quotas on age, gender, educational attainment and geography, and with additional quotas on ethnicity. Overall sample was 2,504 (confidence intervals
Earthwatch asked MHM to provide stakeholder insight that would support their work: they wanted to understand what would inspire pro-environmental behaviour change amongst their potential supporters.
Eco mindsets is a new psychographic profiling system that helps cause led organisations understand what drives people to act for the environment, and what they can do to encourage greater action in future.
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