Elizabeth Kavanagh, our Senior People and Change Consultant, presented at the FuturePlymouth2030 event. Her theme was strategies and examples of behaviour change and how this could be applied to de-carbonising the planet.


THE role of individual behaviours in tackling climate change was explored in a presentation by PCGS’s Elizabeth Kavanagh for the Future Plymouth 2030 webinar series.

Elizabeth, our Senior People and Change Consultant, said that, while a feeling of helplessness was common in the face of major challenges, the evidence of 2020 demonstrated that individuals and organisations could rapidly adopt new behaviours.

Elizabeth talked about how global issues like climate change can induce feelings of “paralysis” and fear. This can harm our ability to act and make positive decisions to help tackle the challenge.

“We are geared to turn away from fear… We turn away from it to something that feels comfortable,” she said.

Instead, she urged, we should engage in dialogue with each other to generate a positive change in habits. “Instead of having a stark emotional reaction, followed by passivity, we need to talk, work together to catalyse ourselves and others into action.”

She cited a programme called Carbon Conversations, which involves group discussion to reduce climate impacts. Half of participants said that the programme helped them to face their worries, while greater emotional engagement was associated with a bigger change in habits.

As individuals and organisations within the built environment sector, she said, an important first step was to measure our behaviours – enabling us to monitor improvements over time.

The Future  Plymouth 2030 webinar series is organised by RIBA Plymouth Branch in collaboration with the Sustainability Earth Institute.

The objective of the webinars is to explore routes to achieving low carbon, sustainable development in the city.

As cited in the Designing Buildings Wiki, the built environment accounts for 45 per cent of total UK carbon emissions. A total 32 per cent of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings, while 13 per cent of products delivered to construction sites are sent directly to landfill without being used.

The adoption within the sector of digital techniques and practices and a more collaborative approach between the different parties involved in major projects, is regarded as a critical route towards reducing this waste and helping to improve sustainability performance.

Elizabeth, a certified strengths-based and career coach, led the culture stream of the Digital Built Britain programme – championing a new collaborative approach towards major projects.

She supports our clients with practical ways to develop the right mindset and culture to enable digital adoption and with the development of ways to collaborate effectively so as to ensure the best project outcomes.

To learn more about PCSG’s work supporting organisations to deliver transformation programmes and to achieve project success through alternative approaches which frequently involve changes in mindsets, cultures and behaviours, please contact Katherine.Bew@pcsg.co.uk