Household and Economy Wide Impacts of Changing Environmental Behaviours

Funded by: Defra


January 2008 to June 2008

PSI researchers:

Robin Vanner

Background, summary and aims

Defra has identified twelve “headline” behaviour goals that could help to contribute to sustainability. These goals relate to a number of household activities, including energy use, waste, water, transport and food. This research project aims to provide information to Defra on the possible direct and indirect impacts, should desired changes in environmental behaviours by members of the public be achieved. To meet this aim, the project will focus on three core stages.

  • Firstly, an assessment of the direct costs and benefits related to each behaviour goal will be made and, where possible, quantified. These costs and benefits are likely to be experienced at the household level, but also by the wider society and government. At the household level, costs may take the form an investment followed by direct financial savings due to more efficient households or practices.
  • The second stage of the project will seek to identify an approach that might be applied to identify and value any “indirect impacts”. These impacts relate to how an individual might respond as a result of changes on household income by making the change desired for a behaviour goal. For example, if a household has an easier to heat house much of the savings will be diverted elsewhere. This will likely include greater levels of savings and some so called ‘comfort taking’ as heat services can be provided cheaper. However, some changes to income will inheritably be diverted into alternative discretionary forms of consumption such as holidays abroad. This stage of the project will describe techniques for determining likely responses to the impacts evaluated in the first stage, and a methodology for calculating the scale and impact of these responses.
  • The third stage will look at the impact of wide uptake of these behaviours may on the wider economy. For example, if a large proportion of the public decide to take a short break in the UK rather than booking a flight abroad, this could have positive impacts for domestic tourism, but negative impacts for car emissions and congestion. This stage of the project will produce a conceptual note, describing how the impacts described in the first two stages would be likely to affect the wider economy

PSI’s role is to develop the scenarios for pro-environmental behavioural changes leading up to 2020 and identify the level of policy intervention required to achieve them.

Related publications / project outputs

Household and economy wide impacts of changing environmental behaviours