Second Green Commission hearing report - 23 February 2015


The Green Commission met for its second of six hearings on issues that affect the sustainability of Sheffield, with presentations from expert witnesses and a workshop for the public. The meeting took place on the 12th of February 2015 at Burngreave Vestry Hall.

This hearing was focused around Communication, Engagement and Behaviour Change, with three expert witnesses brought in to give presentations. They gave the commissioners views and ideas on how they can promote green ideas and policy coming from the commission to the public, what is stopping people taking up these ideas and how Sheffield and the council can change people’s behaviour so they can achieve a successful green initiatives. The hearing was co-hosted by Sheffield Climate Alliance, this brought their knowledge in selecting the three expert witnesses as well as allowing them to host a workshop after for the public around the topics brought up.

The Witnesses

First witness was Dr Carly McLachlan, Lecturer at the University of Manchester and co-lead of the Energy Programme within the national Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Her research interests focus on how stakeholders, including the public, engage with energy and sustainability issues.

Her presentation focused on the current debate around appropriate models for ‘behavioural change’ in policy and academic circles,  the overview of some of the different models that are seen in policy and might be used to frame policy as well as thinking about how those trying to achieve change could use these models. She went through the models, showing what they say about what drives people to make changes, whether economic, social or individual drives. Her showing of multiples models aimed to give the commissioners a view of varied tactics they could take to communicate green ideas, their pros and cons and how a mix of models would need to be employed depending on the aim or intended outcome. Her conclusion was that a range of different models would be needed for Sheffield depending on what outcome was desired.

The second witness was Amanda Pearce, Director of Diva Creative. Established in 1997 in Sheffield, Diva Creative are an award winning full-service marketing agency with vast experience in delivering effective communications and influencing consumer behaviours.

Her presentation focused on achieving behaviour change through social marketing. The presentation started with looking at what social marketing does, leading people to either accept a new, reject an undesirable, modify a current or abandon an old behaviour. This marketing is based around promoting a social good, it starts with the customer to find out what ‘moves and motivates’ them in order to gather insight into how their behaviour can be changed. She showed how this linked to behaviour change theory before bringing in examples of how this has been successful applied, such as getting more young people to ride the bus in Darlington by listening to youth views to engage them in designing a campaign, which lead to increase youth bus travel. She showed there was significant scope to apply social marketing techniques to a wide range of pro-environmental behavioural objectives in Sheffield.

The final witness was Dr Joe Smith, Senior Lecturer in the environment at the Open University. Dr Joe Smith’s work seeks to promote better understanding of - and action on - global environmental change issues. This breaks down into three linked areas of research and commentary: public engagement and the media, the politics of consumption, and contemporary environmental history.

His presentation focused on the wider scale of climate change and how to start thinking about it as applied to Sheffield. He looked at how though most people understand climate change is happening we’ve not been here before, so it is hard for people to get their heads around it and change behaviour. He put forward the need for there to be thought out timescales for different actions and how people must limit expectations. However he explained how this could be a big positive for Sheffield, how making Sheffield a green city could be seen as a vision for the future which could even allow people from around the world to view Sheffield as an example green city. He made clear that climate change is an opportunity to do things for the better, there is a need to keep the messages positive when communicating action on mitigation and adaption and that though economics is important is not the only factor for people to change behaviour.

The witnesses all brought forth interesting ideas, models and views on how the commission could communicate, engage and change behaviour from any policies, actions or initiatives that come from the Green Commission. If you are interested in seeing more of what the witnesses presented the slides from all the presentations can be found here: Second Green Commission Presentation Slides

The Green Commission members had chance to ask follow up questions to the witness, these were mainly around how some of their ideas could be put to affect for Sheffield, though it was unfortunate that a few of the commissioners were unable to make the hearing.


As the commissioners retired to discuss the presentations in private Sheffield Climate Alliance as co-hosts of this hearing put together an hour workshop. This was a great addition from the first hearing as allowed the public to start discussing the issues surround communication, engagement and behaviour change. The public members had been allocated tables for the hearing so a mix of different sectors was represented on each table. The workshop was divided into two parts, first people’s reactions to the presentations, leading to interesting discussions between people of different backgrounds and work sectors. This discussion went into to the second section, putting forward one action or communication people would initiate in their own setting, organisation or community. These ideas were written down on paper tablecloths in order for Sheffield Climate Alliance to gather these ideas at the end to submit them as evidence for the Green Commission.

After the second Green Commission meeting the members have seen 3 witnesses that have brought ideas of how to communicate, engage and change behaviour in order to make Sheffield a greener, more sustainable city. Each of the witnesses made good presentations on their topics and brought inspiring ideas for the future of a green Sheffield. The workshop was a great addition and hopefully will be seen as a positive idea for future hearings as gets the public engaged and can bring more evidence to the Green Commission.

Look out for details on the next Green Commission Hearing which will be announced soon.

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