Around two thirds of the UK population agree that if things continue on their present course, we will soon experience a major ecological catastrophe.

While the thought of this alone might be enough to encourage someone to undertake more pro-environmental behaviours, playing on fear is not an empowering motivator for those who care deeply about the environment – in fact, it mostly just induces anxiety and paralysis.

In this article, we explore the different types of language and approaches that play on key emotions to prompt each mindset to transform concern for the environment into action.

Discussions around climate change and the future of the environment have become increasingly prominent in the public consciousness, especially in the last decade. While it’s important to keep having these discussions, transforming intent into action is key to driving meaningful change. Long-term behavioural change can be a complex process, but by tapping into the specific behavioural levers, organisations can activate certain mindsets and start to increase their propensity to act for the environment.

Emotions are powerful drivers of behaviour, and most of the Eco Mindsets are responsive to appeals that tap into core emotions and are tailored to their personal interests and concerns. But which emotions should you evoke for a particular mindset and in what context?


Meet the Sensational 5: a few key emotions to get you started


Evoking a sense of hope is all about making people feel like what they’re doing is making a difference and that they are helping to tackle the larger problem at hand. This type of messaging is a key motivator for Change Makers, Nature Enthusiasts, Waste Watchers and Anxious Escapists.

Anxious Escapists do care about the environment but they also believe that they, personally, are not doing enough, which causes them to become overwhelmed by the scale of what we collectively need to achieve. This mindset needs lots of support and reassurance, as well as clear instructions for what they need to do to help out. Focusing on hopeful messaging that shows how every little bit counts could really inspire Anxious Escapists to partake in more pro-environmental behaviours.


Evoking a sense of anger is not about ruminating in the negative aspects of the issue, but rather highlighting the injustice and damage in a way that makes people want to speak out and act. Messaging that focuses on anger is effective amongst Change Makers and Nature Enthusiasts, so long as it is combined with an element of hope.

Nature Enthusiasts are the mindset most driven by emotion when carrying out environmental behaviours. They are most concerned for younger generations and are driven by protecting the places they care about. Crafting a message that highlights current injustices but also gives hope for a brighter future is key to giving Nature Enthusiasts the motivation to keep going.


Evoking a sense of pride makes people want to show others when they’ve done the right thing or when they’ve made a difference. This emotion is particularly effective amongst Uncompromising Consumers but is less likely to work on Waste Watchers.

Uncompromising Consumers are the mindset most susceptible to social levers, which explains why they really don’t want others finding out they’re not doing anything and love the opportunity to demonstrate their actions with an accreditation. However, they don’t really see acting for the environment as their role or responsibility, so using messaging that will make them feel proud of their contributions and allow them to show it off to their peers is key.


Evoking a sense of achievement is all about making people feel happy that they’ve accomplished something and then wanting to share it with others. This type of messaging is a key motivator for Conscientious Collaborators, so long as it is combined with a sense of pride.

Conscientious Collaborators are less likely to personally undertake pro-environmental behaviours but show up strongly in their collective contributions. More than any other mindset, they need strong reassurance that their behaviour shows them to be ‘insiders’ so having messaging that highlights exactly what they can accomplish and how they will have made a difference will really inspire this mindset to lend a hand.


Evoking a sense of fear is more about focusing on what will happen if people don’t do the right thing and making them feel afraid. As previously mentioned, fear is not a great motivator for most mindsets – in fact, it usually just induces anxiety. Justice Defenders are the only mindset that are responsive to messaging that evokes fear, so long as it is combined with a sense of anger and achievement.

Justice Defenders tend to be young, diverse, eco-anxious and keen to make a difference; but their concern doesn’t always translate into the increased number of pro-environmental behaviours seen by other mindsets with higher agency and perhaps more disposable income. In order to hit the sweet spot of motivation for Justice Defenders, messaging needs to highlight the injustices of the issue and what will happen if they don’t act now. But it’s not all doom and gloom –  it’s important to let them know how they can meaningfully contribute to the issue so they’re left with a sense of achievement.


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To discuss a project, contact our Consultant and Eco Lead Laura Karban

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