A Synthesis Review of the Public Understanding Research Projects


June 2007 to October 2007

PSI researchers:

Simon Dresner

Background, summary and aims

Background and Aims

This Synthesis Review draws together the results of five independent pieces of research into the public understanding of sustainable behaviours and feeds into the wider policy area of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP).

Qualitative research was commissioned into five key areas in order to provide evidence of public understanding of the need and opportunities for change. The projects explored themes related to consumer understanding, aspirations and expectations of sustainable food, transport, finance and investment, leisure and tourism, and energy use in the home. The projects also explored attitudes towards five specific behaviour goals in each of the key areas.

The aim of the synthesis report is to compare how acceptable and achievable the behaviour goals for different segments are across the five projects, looking at commonalities and differences between them. The report examines public expectations and assumptions in each of the key areas, and considers whether they are reflected across the projects. The synthesis also seeks to identify any differences and inconsistencies between the results of the projects.

Project Design

The initial phase of the preparation of the Synthesis Review involved reading and analysing the reports in order to make comparisons between the public as a whole, and, where applicable, between the different segments in each of the key areas studied. An initial review was produced, which was used as the basis for discussion in a half-day consultative workshop.

The consultative workshop was held with researchers from each of the project teams and Defra, and provided an opportunity to discuss and get feedback on the headline findings. In particular, the review team were interested to ascertain whether there were any gaps in the initial findings, or inconsistencies between the research projects.

Based on workshop discussions and further analysis of the reports, a technical report, summary report and policy briefing were produced

Importance of Research

This research project will inform Defra's on-going research programme into behaviour change for sustainable consumption and production. The research will provide insights into consumer behaviours, attitudes and aspirations for sustainable consumption. For policymakers, the research will provide a greater understanding of how the different aspects of sustainable consumption relate to one another. The findings from the research will feed into, amongst others, a Behaviour Change Strategy, and the Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan.

Related publications / project outputs

Public Understanding Synthesis Report: A report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs