Environmental pressures from households are significant, and their impacts are likely to intensify over the coming years. As governments introduce a variety of measures to encourage greener practices, influencing behaviour remains a challenge. The OECD activity on Environmental Policy and Individual Choice (EPIC) initiated by the Environment Directorate aims at better understanding what affects people’s attitudes and decisions and households’ responses to environmental policies in order to provide guidance to policy-makers in five key public policy areas. Consult our recent flyer.
This work involves the implementation of a series of large scale OECD household survey on environmental behaviour. While existing studies generally limit their scope to a single country and focus on a single environmental concern, the questionnaire developed by the OECD covers five areas (energy, food, transport, water and waste).
The main results of the first EPIC survey are presented in the publication Greening Household Behaviour: The Role of Public Policy (2011). It is based on the analysis of responses from over 10 000 households in ten countries: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The book offers new insight into what policy measures really work, looking at what factors affect people’s behaviour towards the environment in the five areas: residential energy use, water consumption, personal transport choices, organic food consumption, and waste generation and recycling.
The full executive summary can be downloaded for free in 12 different languages: Czech, Dutch, French, German, English, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.
A French version of the book is now available Politique de l'environnement et comportement des ménages, (2011).
This first EPIC survey was implemented in 2008. Thematic reports prepared by research teams were presented and discussed at an OECD Conference held in Paris in 2009. Observer articles on energy, transport and water are also available.
A new round of the EPIC survey was carried early 2011 in eleven countries representing different regions: Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Analysis of environmental policy from the demand side is receiving increasing attention from governments. The survey will help identify changes in people’s attitudes and behaviour towards the environment, as well as to examine new issues such as the adoption of eco-innovations. Based upon the results arising from survey responses, practical policy recommendations will be formulated to design efficient and effective environmental policies targeted at households.
An Advisory Committee, including government representatives from the participating countries, was set up to help inform this project and to ensure the political relevance of the outcome of the work.
Timeline of the 2011 Survey
- Presentation of the survey results and publication of the main conclusions and policy implications (2013/2014).
- Analysis of the survey data by research teams coordinated by the OECD Secretariat including households’ response to various types of environmental policies (e.g. waste charges, waste recycling services, pricing, energy efficiency labelling, organic food labelling) and differences in environmental behaviour across households groups. Preparation of thematic reports by research teams based upon the results (2011/2012). Follow-up work using econometric techniques.
- Implementation of the OECD Survey on Environmental Behaviour in all 11 countries, with a total sample of over 11 000 respondents (early 2011). [Completed]
- Pre-testing of the survey in selected countries, finalisation of the questionnaire design and translation (October 2010-January 2011). [Completed]
OECD Environment Directorate
Several research teams with extensive experience have contributed to this project coordinated by the OECD Environment Directorate. These include:
Catholic University, Piacenza – Italy:
Stefano BOCCALETTI (research team leader) – Organic Food
Charles University in Prague – Czech Republic:
Milan SCASNY (research team leader) – Energy Efficiency
Korean Environment Institute (KEI) – Korea:
Kwang-yim KIM (research team leader) – Waste Generation
SLU University – Sweden:
Bengt KRISTRÖM (research team leader) – Renewable Energy
Statistics Norway - Norway:
Bente HALVORSEN (research team leader) – Gender Issues
The Australian National University – Australia:
Quentin GRAFTON (research team leader) – Water Consumption
Universitad Ibericoamericana – Mexico:
Alejandro GUEVARA-SANGINES (research team leader) - Transport
University Panthéon-Sorbonne and INRA – France:
Katrin MILLOCK and Céline NAUGES (research team leaders) – Water Conservation and Water Quality
York University – Canada:
Ida FERRARA (research team leader) – Waste Recycling and Waste Prevention
Previous work of the Environment Directorate on Household Consumption
The project on Household Behaviour and Environmental Policy was initiated with a review of existing empirical evidence on the main factors affecting people's behaviour towards the environment (Household Behaviour and the Environment: Reviewing the Evidence, 2008)
This project builds on previous OECD work on sustainable consumption developed since 1994. The activity was initiated with a comprehensive programme combining the development of a conceptual framework for the analysis of the effects of household consumption on the environment, sector case studies documenting trends, environmental impacts, and policy response in five areas of household consumption (food, tourism-related travel, energy, water and waste generation), and policy recommendations to influence household consumption. The results of this work were released as a publication "Towards Sustainable Household Consumption? Trends and Policies in OECD Countries" and a series of free documents.
In addition, work focussing on energy-consuming consumer durables such as motor vehicles or household appliances was undertaken addressing key issues to reduce impacts from durable design, production, use and disposal. A report on the environmental and policy implications of household decisions with respect to consumer durable purchases is available. This reviews some of the challenges facing policy makers as they seek to design environmentally effective and economically efficient environmental policies in this area.
Environmental Policy and Household Behavioural Change - Taking the Car? - Observer Article
Environmental Policy and Household Behavioural Change - Saving Energy - Observer Article
Environmental Policy and Household Behavioural Change - Water Quality and Conservation - Observer Article