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Bridging the Intention-Action Gap in Sustainability

In this blog post, we are diving into the sustainability intention action gap, what it is and how we can bridge that gap.


WP image for ignite event blog

What is the intention-action gap?

Even though studied for numerous years, the intention-action gap simply refers to the difference between what people say they want to do compared to what they actually do. A great example of this is new year resolutions. Every year we all make a list of what we plan to do for that particular year, but as the next Christmas looms nearer, we often take a look back at that list and realise we have done barely any! 

There are often a load of different barriers that can create this gap, from cost to inconvenience, and the challenge is to find ways to help people overcome these barriers and decrease the gap between their intentions and actions.

So how does this relate to sustainability?

There are many reasons that sustainability should be at the top of the agenda, especially as the climate crisis is undoubtedly the most important threat we face. With the IPCC climate report hot off the press, it is evident that the planet is at high risk if we continue down our current path. So the question is all around what we, as humans, can do to significantly slow down this current trajectory. 

The intention-action gap theory researched by many behavioural scientists can also be related to sustainability. It is clear that as much as hopeful individuals want to be more sustainable and protect our planet, due to numerous factors, their actions don’t live up to their intentions. As mentioned in Harvard Business Review, ​​people say they want sustainable products, but they don’t tend to buy them.

Below is an illustrative view of that intention action gap:

Understanding the average consumer’s sustainability attitudes is necessary to help identify their needs and barriers. Earlier in the year, we ran a consumer survey around sustainability and found that 77% of the respondents acknowledged the importance of changing their lifestyles to enhance their sustainability. Therefore, it is clear that individuals understand that lifestyles need to change and that the intention-action gap needs to be bridged.

For more information about the consumer survey report we launched at the beginning of the year, follow the link below:

How to bridge the sustainability intention-action gap

The million-dollar question! And not an easy one at that. I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and have all the answers, but unfortunately, I don’t and actually, it is a lot more complicated than that. In order to change consumer attitudes and motivations towards sustainability, there needs to be a lot of help from brands, businesses, governments (the list goes on) in order to relieve the current barriers. 

Even though I don’t have the answer, 3 Sided Cube are holding an event on Thursday the 14th of October (in real life!) to look at why people don’t act on their sustainable intentions and how we bridge that intention-action gap.

Our panel discussion, led by brand and technology experts, will explore the current barriers facing consumers and brands, but also looking at how different technology approaches can support a more sustainable society.

Ant that’s where YOU come in! The entire aim of our Ignite initiative is to create a community that is ready and raring to tackle some of the biggest problems facing our planet. So if this sounds good to you, make sure you are all signed up and ready for our big event next month!

For more information and tickets, find out more: More info about the Ignite event

Published on September 20, 2021, last updated on March 15, 2023

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