9. Enabling behaviour change

//9. Enabling behaviour change

9. Enabling behaviour change

Recommendation: Enable and encourage people to change their behaviour for triple-win impacts

Our unsustainable behaviours, shaped by prevailing political and economic models and structures, impact our health and the health of our planet, as well as social cohesion and equity. Although changes in how people choose and are enabled to live, move and consume is a key aspect of transitioning to more sustainable societies, behaviour, and its underlying mechanisms, is insufficiently considered by policies seeking to mitigate the climate crisis and address ill-health. Policymakers have a crucial role in encouraging and enabling everybody – as individuals and as professionals – to make sustainable positive changes, and in building a social and physical environment that facilitates these changes, benefiting health, equity and the environment. Evidence from INHERIT highlights that whilst it is difficult for people to adopt new behaviours in the areas of living, moving and consuming, it can be done when they are provided with the opportunity to change, and are supported in increasing their capability and motivation.[1]

Voices from INHERIT

Consuming: Around half of the survey respondents would find it easier to follow healthy and sustainable diets if the price of fruit and vegetables was lower and the price of foods high in sugar and salt was higher.

INHERIT Five-country Survey

Living (energy efficiency): “Compared with the current life similarity is the intention of saving, to have energy efficient homes, but the opportunities are limited, do not enable us to save. We know that we would have saved much more if we use solar panels, but we don’t have them. One thing are the capabilities and what we know, other is what we do. Today we spend more energy than we need.”

Macedonia, 38, Middle Income

Moving: “I like the rewarding of all traffic participants who will use public transport, bicycle or who will go by foot. The use of cars would be more expensive. The companies would stimulate the health insurance for benefits for citizens who will use the alternative way to commute.”

Macedonia, 36, Low Income

Living (green spaces): “Some opportunity for tree climbing or climbing somewhere high, like a climbing wall. I would like these. More playgrounds focused on sport, also meant for adults.”

the Czech Republic, 30, High Income

What can be done? Insights from INHERIT

Across policy levels   EU level
  • Behaviour change is driven by a person’s capability and motivation, but also very much by the opportunities that the social, cultural and physical environment provides. These drivers of behaviour change vary across contexts and population groups.
  • It is important to investigate the underlying reason(s) why people (do not) engage in specific healthy sustainable behaviours, to avoid implementing ineffective policies. Knowing whether it is a matter of capability, motivation and/or opportunity that needs to be improved can help with developing or choosing the right policies.

source: [2]

  • The Behaviour Change Wheel helps to understand how policies and interventions can influence people’s behaviour, and which policies can be used to foster a triple-win in the areas of living, moving and consuming. This includes for instance:
    • Changing the physical environment through environmental restructuring;
    • Influencing the social/cultural environment through education and training.
  • It is important to bear in mind that:
    • Behavioural insights should be applied through the whole cycle of the policymaking process, from development to implementation, as well as in monitoring and evaluation phases.
    • Barriers also need to be identified and tackled.
    • Achieving difficult changes (such as protecting the environment and quality of life) will often require bold legislation, which will not always be easily accepted.

Make it easy and affordable

  • Cost is a key factor of change, while initiatives that require a high level of personal agency are less likely to be adopted at scale. Possible measures include:
    • Subsidising fruits and vegetables whilst increasing taxes on animal-based protein.
    • Making healthy options the easy options (for instance by providing fast track lines for vegetarian dishes in the canteen).
    • Investing in urban infrastructures that make it easy for people to engage in active transport.
  • Be careful that measures taken to reduce or waive costs for certain target groups are not too explicit, and thereby stigmatise or stereotype.

Make it fun and positive

  • People are more likely to be motivated to change if the change is enjoyable. Measures include:
    • Getting people outdoors to engage with nature. (GemüseAckerdemie)
    • Using food to bring people together, for instance through cooking classes or food fairs. (STOEMP)
    • Investing in technologies that make physical activity fun (for instance through motivational features, user community). (Urban Cyclers, Lifestyle e-coaching)

Make it engaging

  • Engaging people emotionally and intellectually is a key factor for sustainable change, and can be achieved by:
    • Fostering understanding of why we need to change through education and training, making it more likely that people will truly commit in the long-run. (Sustainable Food in Public Schools)
    • Creating positive atmospheres for co-creation and innovation, giving a voice to people and allowing them to participate in their own lives.

Make it comparable

  • Social norms matter. Apply available powerful tools such as information campaigns, choice architecture and regulatory measures to influence social norms by shifting people’s behaviours and then their values.
  • Rankings can have a powerful effect on behaviour: people, businesses, cities or countries can be motivated for example by the desire to “have the lowest carbon footprint”. The media also often seizes upon country or city rankings, which can be used to publicise broader messages. Measures include:
    • Capturing precise data on environmental factors that can impact on health, and ensuring it is available and transparent;
    • Identifying and investing in common frameworks and indicators on environmental and social issues;
    • Creating or joining business/city/country comparisons on key sustainability issues.

Link health and sustainability

  • A desire for better health can motivate change. Linking efforts to improve the environment with efforts to improve health, by e.g. providing access to better quality food and more green space can motivate people to support and take actions that restore and protect the environment.
  • Promote behaviours that support the ‘triple-win’ as the path to a life well-lived.
  • Put in place research and development measures, including in the priority missions for Horizon Europe, to further develop data sources, knowledge, understanding and dissemination of relevant behavioral methods and processes.
  • Mainstream and apply behavioural knowledge throughout EU institutions, including via the (Health Equity) Impact Assessment processes anticipating legislation and regulation (Better Regulation agenda).
  • Incorporate guidelines for applying evidence-based behavioural knowledge and measures throughout EU funding programmes, particularly those connected with sustainable development, digital change and new ways of working, to help ensure locally implemented projects and programmes such as food production, transport and economic investment are informed by up-to-date knowledge and relevant data to help achieve effective outcomes in accordance with ‘triple-win’ aims.


INHERIT triple-win case studies

More information on the INHERIT case studies can be found in the Annex: triple-win case studies

Sustainable Food in Public Schools

Motivates kitchen staff by providing education and training on healthy sustainable food for children, engaging them in the process of positive change. Assessed as economically beneficial (the potential benefits exceed the costs in a ratio of approximately six to one).


An integrated city approach to ensure healthy sustainable food to low-income populations. Demonstrates how different sectors and organisations can work synergistically together to implement actions towards healthy eating, and aims to bring people together around food.

Urban Cyclers

Motivates app users to engage in regular cycling through a combination of cycling maps, route planner, turn-by-turn navigation, smart gamification features and financial incentives.


Provides children with the opportunity to connect with nature and learn about growing food, through an education and training programme for teachers.

Lifestyle e-coaching

Motivates users of a lifestyle app to engage in physical activity. Targets disadvantaged populations, and is particularly effective in those with low-levels of initial activity.

INHERIT Promising practice database


IT tool (website and apps) that scores products on the basis of health, environment, human rights and animal welfare considerations. It covers products available in a number of affiliated supermarket chains in the Netherlands.

Additional Reading from INHERIT

INHERIT Policy Brief #1

Enabling Positive Behaviour Change. November 2019. EuroHealthNet: Brussels.

Report: Five-country survey

Iva Zvěřinová, Milan Ščasný, & Vojtěch Máca (2018) INHERIT: Barriers and Potential for Adopting Healthier, More Equitable and Environmentally Friendly Solutions Identified in a Five Country Survey.

Report: Citizen Insights on achieving the triple-win

Francesca Grossi, Rosa Strube & Arlind Xhelili (2018) INHERIT: Citizen Insights for a Healthier, more Equitable and Sustainable Europe in 2040. A Qualitative Analysis in five Countries.

2020-01-17T12:39:12+01:00November 26, 2019|Keys themes|Comments Off on 9. Enabling behaviour change