SEA’s mission is to help ‘Behaviour Changers’ better change behaviour – because our planet depends on it
SEA is a behaviour change research consultancy located in Wellington, New Zealand.
Dr Sea Rotmann, the CEO of SEA, has been working tirelessly for over a decade to get behaviour change research on the global map. She studied for ten years to be a coral reef ecologist but quickly realised that her favourite thing on earth – nature in all its glory, but particularly the abundance and biodiversity of a well-functioning reef system, was under threat. From us. Humans, and our wasteful behaviours leading to devastating impacts on our ecosystem that few, if any of us can truly comprehend. This is when she realised that the biggest nut to crack was how to change human and corporate behaviour, so that we, our children and grandchildren and all the other species co-inhabiting this planet with us can survive and thrive. A vision for the future that is becoming more and more threatened. This is why research into, and understanding of human and corporate behaviour should be at the forefront of corporate and governmental responsibility.
“My entire study and career has been focused on helping protect our environment, by helping people to engage more sustainably with their environment. I am a coral reef ecologist by training. The large-scale, devastating die-off of coral reefs, which us scientists long predicted, is what will continue to drive me to try my best to help change behaviours before it is too late – for coral reefs and for the human race.“
How do you help Behaviour Changers better change behaviour?
Since its inception in 2011, SEA has worked with the Demand-Side Management Programme (now called User-Centred Energy Systems or “Users TCP“) by the International Energy Agency to lead the first global behaviour change research collaboration. It was called “Task 24 – Behaviour Change in DSM“. For this research, SEA collaborated with hundreds of behaviour change experts around the world to figure out how to best tackle such a complex and messy problem. Like there is no “silver bullet” technology that can simply wipe away all our impacts on the earth, ocean and climate, there is also no such silver bullet to “fix” human behaviour. The best way to design, implement, evaluate and communicate behaviour change interventions that truly work, is to get the different ‘Behaviour Changers‘ who are trying to change user behaviours together, to collaborate towards a shared, common goal. This is called a “Collective Impact Approach“.
How successful is this approach?
SEA used such a Collective Impact Approach, together with the “Behaviour Changer Framework” that was developed in Task 24 to change behaviours in sectors as varied as:
- Healthcare (Canada and the US),
- Mobility (Austria),
- Commercial office buildings (Sweden),
- Higher education and ICT (the Netherlands)
- The residential sector (New Zealand and Ireland) and
- Energy utilities (US and Canada, New Zealand).
We believe we found a method, based on “behavioural socio-ecology” that truly helps facilitate multi-stakeholder collaboration to solve the messiest of problems and create real change, individually, collectively and societally. This includes creating culture change in commercial operations and SMEs.
Behaviour change interventions co-designed using this framework led to verified energy and financial savings, measured improvements in staff capability, productivity and wellbeing, and an increase in energy literacy and energy-efficient behaviours in businesses and households. A summary “Toolbox for Behaviour Changers” was published by Task 24. Dr Sea Rotmann is also part of the California-based See Change Institute, a leading behaviour change research institute that has developed the “Building Blocks for behaviour change”.
SEA has recently started a new IEA Users TCP research Annex focusing on hard-to-reach energy users in the commercial and residential sectors. This research is based on the premise that a very large proportion (>30%) of energy users are currently underserved by the energy efficiency and behaviour change policies and programmes Behaviour Changers have developed. It is using the See Change Building Blocks for behaviour change as the overarching research methodology to undertake a global case study analysis on the hard-to-reach and to develop field research pilots based on this best practice approach.
The first field research pilot based on this approach, developing a BEST (Behaviour, Energy & Sustainability Training) course for Energy Managers and Building Operators in Ontario’s commercial sector (for the Independent Electricity Systems Operator, IESO), was so successful that it will likely be rolled out across Canada’s green healthcare network, and in the municipality of Toronto.
SEA’s approach to behaviour change has been regarded as “cutting-edge” by academics, industry leaders and policymakers around the globe. Please contact us if you want to learn more or join the new research Task on the hard-to-reach.
“SEA brings a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to the real world work of energy behaviour change. The Behaviour Changer Framework helps groups see the energy systems as a whole, focus on their challenges and build empathy for others in the system. Working with SEA was a valuable experience which helped condense the challenge and made finding solutions easier and faster.“Kady Cowan – former Sustainability Director at Atrium Health, North Carolina (now Manager at IESO, Toronto)