A Behaviour Change Journey by the
Academy of Change

Let’s say hello to Chris! He is a super nice guy. He goes to the canteen at work every day and always picks the first option on the menu — the meat dish. He does not think about his choice, it just comes automatically.

Start the Journey

Why sustainability needs behaviour change

Chris and most people around him care about the planet and a good life for future generations but often he does not act according to these values and intentions. Nor do the people around him. He reads a lot about climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainability in the news, but doesn’t make the connection to his own behaviour—like what he is having for lunch at work. We call this a gap: between intentions, attitudes, knowledge… and actual action. Perfectly rational decisions are not on the menu for most of us.

You probably already experienced that yourself, when throwing away food, buying a flight rather than a train ticket or simply going back to sleep when your alarm clock has woken you. Is Chris really solely responsible for his choices?

What do you know about eating meat?

The average European
eats approx. 69 kilos of
meat each year.


Yes it’s true, according to OECD/FAO data in 2018.

No, it’s true, according to OECD/FAO data in 2018.

About 15% of
global emissions
come from food.


No, it’s false, about 25% of global emissions come from food – the largest impact being attributed to beef and lamb consumption

Yes, it’s false,about 25% of global emissions come from food – the largest impact being attributed to beef and lamb consumption

Levels of vegetarianism in
Europe have seen rapid growth
in the past years.


Yes it’s true, Italy has the largest share of vegetarians with 10% of the population, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria with 9%.

No, it’s true, Italy has the largest share of vegetarians with 10% of the population, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria with 9%.

A transformation to sustain­able
diets by 2050 will require
a substantial shift.


Yes, it’s true, according to the latest findings of the EAT-Lancet report — including a 50% reduction in global consumption of red meat. However, the changes required vary considerably from region to region.

No, it’s true, according to the latest findings of the EAT-Lancet report — including a 50% reduction in global consumption of red meat. However, the changes required vary considerably from region to region.

Meat consumption is clearly an important behaviour to address. How do we deal with the knowledge / action gap? Let’s go on a journey about how changing behaviours can be done successfully. Of course, the same concepts can be applied to other behaviours as well!

Understanding your target group

It's very easy to make false assumptions about other people's behaviour. That's why we have to understand Chris better first. How can you get insightful information about a target group and get as close to their reality and motivations as possible?

Did you know, that 74% of Europeans eat meat regularly? Existing research shows that 43% of people eat meat 2-3 times per week; 23%, 4-6 times per week and 8%, every day.

Read more

Existing data can help you understand who your target group is. Relevant data on different behaviours are regularly published by governments, researchers and private databases.


Would you have guessed that 90% of us eat the same nine meals over and over again? A survey of 4,000 families in the UK showed that nearly all of them rely on the same nine dinners each week, most of which included meat.

Read more

Quantitative research research is helpful in obtaining clear, representative results that can be easily communicated in percent. It allows you to weight the importance of different factors and compare different groups.


When trying to unpick the realities of cooking at home, would you have thought that recipes are largely ignored when preparing family dinners? ‘Friendship triads’ has shown that people shop and cook from memory and routine dominates.

Read more

Qualitative research methods, including also depth interviews, focus groups and ethnography, allow you to explore how people actually act, not just what they think they do. They can help to get beneath the surface of people's attitudes and motivations.


Specifying the behaviour you want to change

The next step is to find out what the behaviours are that contribute most to Chris eating meat. Usually several sub-behaviours are responsible for this and to design effective solutions we need to be clear about what we are focusing on.

Choosing one of the meat options at the work canteen.

Buying a meat-based sandwich from the shop at lunch.

Buying meat as the focus of the evening meal, in the supermarket.

Choosing a burger restaurant to meet with friends after work.

Understanding the behaviour in its context.* Feel free to skip this, if it is too technical for you

Behaviour must be understood in context. There are individual, social and environmental factors to consider when considering Chris' behaviour: Does he want to change his behaviour? Is he able to do this? Is there a reason for him to do it now? There are several theoretical models that have proved very helpful in mapping these elements!

There are only meat options on the canteen menu. So even if Chris is motivated and capable to eat less meat, he lacks the opportunity to do so in the work canteen.

Read more

Learn how the COM-B model helps you unravel aspects like the importance of opportunity.

Download COM-B model

In the canteen of Chris’ wife, there are reminders and calls for action for people to choose a vegetarian dish through a promotion, at Chris’ canteen there are none.

Read more

Learn how the FOGG’s Model helps you unravel aspects like triggers for behaviour change.

Download FOGG’s Model

Chris usually goes to lunch with his colleagues. Most of them are big meat eaters. Relationships influence our own behaviour.

Read more

Learn more how the ISM model can help you unravel aspects like the social context

Download ISM Model

*Meat is an emotional topic, so habits and emotions related to meat consumption might be stronger than it would be for other topics like reducing energy consumption.

Selecting the right tool

Now we come to the most interesting part! There are a number of behaviour change tools we work with to help Chris change his behaviour.

Can we
make it

Imagine a canteen, where there is a fast track at the checkout for veggie dishes - this would be a typical nudge, which has become a very popular tool and aims to make good decisions easy.


Can we
make it
feel like
the norm?

Many of the influencers he follows on social media have recently turned vegan and Chris feels there is a new social norm developing around reducing meat consumption.


Can we
raising the

American students demand from their universities to make a commitment, another strong tool, to offer “real food”. (Real food has been defined as sustainable, fairer and healthier food).


Can we get
as close as
possible to
where & when
the behaviour

When thinking about the right place, right time to deliver a message about eating less meat — in the supermarket when shopping for dinner is better than in the food magazine that he flicks through on the train to work.


Now all you have to do is to put these pieces together to an intervention. Once it’s over – you need to evaluate your intervention.

Evaluating your impact

If you have gone through the whole process and are doing an intervention to change the behaviour of Chris or an entire group, you will most likely be interested in the effects. Here are some ways of evaluating impact.

sales analysis

Can help you measure the impacts of your intervention to boost sales of vegetarian dishes or products.

Back to front side

online surveys

Can help you measure changes in the level of acceptability, interest and claimed behaviour for eating vegetarian meals following your intervention.

Back to front side

Conducting a survey with control
and treatment groups.

Can help you measure differences in attitudes and behaviour towards eating vegetarian meals, caused by your intervention.

Back to front side

Follow-up interviews
or discussion groups

Can help you understand in more detail if, how and why the acceptability and interest for vegetarian meals and products increased.

Back to front side

Online data

Can help you measure clicking behaviour in view of online interventions e.g. suggesting a vegetarian action or tip.

Back to front side

Randomised control
trial (RCT)

Can provide you with the ‘gold standard’ of proof on whether your intervention has made a difference.

Back to front side

Over the edge of plate

The models, tools and tactics described above are powerful tools for changing behaviour but are also part of a bigger picture. If possible, it would be good to consider Chris’s values, the connections that his behaviours have to wider systems, and the ethics around the behaviour you’re changing. These are bigger strategic questions that we are exploring in the Academy of Change.

You’re through!

We hope you enjoyed our behaviour change journey! If you want to learn more about the Academy of Change, visit our website.

If you are working for an NGO and would like to participate in our 6-Module programme on behaviour change, apply here for the upcoming round of the Academy of Change.

If your organisation is addressing a certain sustainability challenge for which behaviour change is the right lens, play the Lottery and take your chance of winning a 1-hour behaviour change sparring partner session with us.

Apply to AoCWin the lottery