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How psychology helps businesses go green

Words by Abi Scaife

While it can be tricky to make changes in your own life, transforming an entire business can be even more complicated. 

That’s where Third Planet Collective comes in, a volunteer-led organisation full of individuals who are keen to help companies find more eco-friendly ways to thrive. To achieve this, they teach businesses and employees about sustainability.

“We created Third Planet as a way to empower people to get involved - to do as little or as much as they want to, but to do something to amplify people's efforts to be more pro-planetary,” explains Abigail Ireland, one of the co-founders of Third Planet Collective. “So that's where it started from. It was just the need to feel like we're doing something rather than waiting for someone else to make change happen.”

Abigail, whose background is in banking, partnered with Dr Iain Smith, a business psychologist. What sets Third Planet Collective apart from other organisations is that they take a psychological approach to sustainability.

It might sound odd, but the truth is that psychology makes up a huge part of business - especially when it comes to driving planet-forward changes. Business hinges on people, and Third Planet Collective uses that knowledge to help entrepreneurs make their businesses as eco-friendly as possible, through two courses.

“I think [change] depends on every single person recognising that [climate change] is an issue ... I think there is hope - I think nature will always win,” says Abigail. “And I do believe that it will always balance things out one way or another. We're all connected, everything that impacts the planet ultimately comes back to impact us." So I think there will be there will be changes that are made."

“The key thing [is] speaking up and questioning things and contacting companies. If we all do things like that, it makes a difference, like just recognising we can take action.”

The Third Planet Collective currently runs two workshops - one for leaders, and one for team members. ‘Extraplanetary Leadership’ is designed for business owners, leaders, managers and decision-makers - helping to showcase the myriad benefits of making your business more planet friendly. For team members and employees, they run ‘Only You Can Save The Earth’, which teaches people how to use psychology to make eco-friendly changes in their daily lives.

“Then they can take the materials away, [and] run the session for other people, so it has a domino effect,” explains Abigail. “That's what we're trying to create … where people can come along, learn something, and do it differently. We're really focused on behavioural change and behavioural science.”

“It's about the psychology of why we aren't making change happen when we can. It’s empowering people to take that action themselves with practical tips they can use.”

According to Abigail and her colleagues at Third Planet Collective, there are many psychological reasons why people and businesses aren’t making important changes - even though they know these changes would benefit the planet and their business.

“In our workshops we talk about things like status quo bias. People just want things to stay the same way - they don't want change. And then there's loss aversion; when you're used to a certain level of convenience it's hard to lose that, in some ways,” explains Abigail. “We focus on the present over the future, and because it's such a gradual thing … we don’t have that shock. So, there are lots of psychological barriers.”

But, for Third Planet Collective, it isn’t about the shock, or the fear factor - it’s about inspiring change, and teaching people about the actions they can take. It’s so important to help enthuse businesses about climate action and Third Planet Collective is doing it in the best way possible - by investing in people and empowering them to make a change.

If you’re interested in getting involved with Third Planet Collective, who are looking for volunteers, you can get in touch with them through their website.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

The Climate Coalition. This is the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action against climate change. Find out more and support them here.

Climate Reframe.  Climate Reframe is committed to supporting the climate and environment movement in its transformation towards greater justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI). Find out more.

Rewilding Britain. They aim to tackle the climate emergency and extinction crisis, reconnect people with the natural world and help communities thrive. Find out more here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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