communications strategy

Sustainability Gains from Gaming

Carolyn McMaster | September 1, 2011

The Business Council on Climate Change presented a program last week on how games are inspiring ways to get people on board with sustainable behavior change. The presenters, from Blue Shield, Sabre Holdings, SunPower and RideSpring, all had great stories to tell about how their interactive contests are inspiring people to increase their environmental efforts, get healthier, carpool more, or boost their store of knowledge about solar power.

Goals for these programs vary: improve employee and customer health (Blue Shield), boost employees’ sustainability behavior and knowledge (Sabre), increase market awareness and sales (SunPower), and expand knowledge and use of alternative transit and ridesharing among commuters (RideShare). (More info and links to programs are at the BC3 site.)

The experiences of all four reinforce what research has been telling us all along about getting people to act more responsibly in all kinds of arenas.

Make it relevant. Sabre’s Leilani Latimer noted that employees didn’t care about environmental actions at home—they wanted to know what they could do at work. Blue Shield’s Bryce Williams had similar experiences with his program.

Don’t chastise. Admonishing people for bad behavior or not fulfilling a goal almost never gets results, at least in the long term.

Go team. Competition gets intense in the Sabre and Blue Shield programs, in which participant teams compete by performing environmentally friendly or healthy behaviors. The actions are recorded and tracked online.

Peer pressure works, even if you’re not in high school. Team members pulled their own weight, and everyone reported that knowing what everyone else was doing meant people weren’t likely to cheat. Several people noted that fame—for instance, seeing your name in a company e-mail announcing winners—is a motivator.

Prizes work (if they’re coveted). Paul McGrath of RideSpring swore by regular prizes (his programs provide them via random drawings), as long as they’re good ones.

Prizes don’t work (if they’re eh). Sabre’s program offers prizes to workgroups, but they’re so small that they’re not the main motivator, said Latimer.

Make it easy. No one will do anything if it’s too complicated, time consuming or difficult. All these programs feature easy online access and simple steps.


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