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KBzine: the original kitchen and bathroom industry e-newssince 2002
28th January 2021


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New research by the University of East Anglia, could have an important message for our industry. It found that giving people general information about the importance of saving water is less effective than emphasising the water-conserving actions of others in the same social group - i.e. put people into an 'ingroup' which supposedly exhibits specific behaviour and they're likely to conform to that behaviour.

"Ensuring a sustainable water supply requires a multifaceted approach and this will become increasingly important as demand for water continues to rise and climate change alters water availability," said lead researcher Dr Ellin Lede. "Our findings have implications for the design of environmental campaigns. Traditionally, water conservation campaigns deliver general water saving information. However, campaigns informed by behavioural science can increase their effectiveness and should form an integral part of demand reduction strategies."

The research involved four studies. One, in which stickers were placed in UEA halls of residence shower rooms (indicating that other students were reducing their shower time by one or two minutes) showed how well this strategy works. Students reduced their showers by more than a minute whereas students seeing a normal 'please conserve water' message just carried on as usual.

Another, conducted with Anglian Water, aimed to increase sign-ups to a free residential retrofitting service, whereby a plumber fits water-efficiency devices in customers' homes.

An 'ingroup norms' appeal message was added to the beginning of a letter sent to 1,148 households, stating that people in Norfolk care about the environment and saving water, and that other residents had already signed up to the programme. Sign-up rates were significantly higher among households that received the amended letter, compared to the 1,158 that received a standard letter without additional messaging.

Study co-author Dr Rose Meleady, said: "Across four studies we demonstrated the ways in which the social identity approach can maximise the power of behaviour-based interventions and encourage a shift in intentions and behaviour to promote household water conservation.
"As shown in the study with Anglian Water, just integrating the ingroup norms appeal text in the letter increased the rate of sign-up to a water conserving initiative. Something as simple as changing the form of messaging, and in a way that doesn't cost any more, can make messaging more effective and lead to behaviour change."

How can we as an industry change our behaviour to incorporate these findings into our own messages I wonder? It should be quite simple and could make a huge difference to the way we use water, couldn't it?

John and I were away at an exhibition last week - hence this Monday broadcast.


Jan Hobbs



25th March 2019

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