Sustainability issues are a growing concern across all age groups. Among younger generations in particular, this concern is playing an increasingly important role when it comes to purchasing decisions. Research reveals that Generation Z (Gen Z) place high importance on brands that reflect their values, with up to 72% willing to spend more on goods and services produced in a sustainable way. The same applies to Millennials who are just as eco-conscious, with 75% at the point of changing their buying habits to favour environmentally friendly products.
There is also emerging evidence that the priority placed on sustainability by Gen Z extends to accommodation decisions. Recent research into what Gen Z wants from their living environment found that “80% of Gen Zs said it was important that their home has sustainability credentials when considering a new place to live.”
With 25–34-year-olds making up 62% of all tenants in Build-to-Rent, there is an opportunity for operators to harness this collective concern to create more sustainable communities.
Barriers to change
Our recent research report entitled Changing Behaviours investigated the barriers to change and identified the main reasons why tenants did not make the effort of becoming sustainable, from feelings of powerlessness, social norms and comparisons to mistrust.
Individuals often feel powerless to take action that can make a difference in mitigating an issue as serious as climate change, and this impacts their behaviour. Both our research and our discussions with tenants highlighted that in many cases, individuals believe that action at an individual level is unlikely to make a difference, especially when others around them aren’t doing the ‘right’ thing.
Furthermore, as humans, we frequently compare ourselves with others. This includes a comparison of our actions with those of others to determine the “correct” behaviour when it comes to the environment. If individuals believe that those around them are not engaging in pro-environmental behaviour, then they themselves are less likely to engage in pro-environmental behaviour. The opposite is also true – individuals will also change their behaviour to “match” others in a positive way, in order to avoid the disapproval of their peers – for example, altering energy consumption to replicate the reported usage of their neighbours.
Finally, if pro-environmental behaviour change programmes are perceived as lacking authenticity or ineffective, then individuals are unlikely to participate. Our discussions with tenants highlighted repeatedly that the way their accommodation provider approaches recycling, for instance, influences the level of trust that they have in their accommodation provider when it comes to wider sustainability initiatives. If recycling programmes are perceived as being tokenistic or ineffective, then tenants are likely to have reduced trust and reduced motivation to engage in pro-environmental behaviours.
The role technology plays in inspiring tenants
Technology such as tenant engagement portals not only provide tenants with a centralised platform to access information about their building and communicate with management, but also provide an opportunity for tenants to engage with their community. By helping tenants to feel better connected to where they live, this increases the likelihood that they will feel more attached and responsible to their local community, and ultimately more likely to behave in a way that benefits the collective good.
Tenant engagement portals also offer a central place where operators can easily share information and advice about recycling, energy and water conservation, and sustainable transportation options, helping to better inform tenants. We’ve seen clients share tips on reducing food waste and provide guides on how to create your own compost bins. By providing easy access to this information, tenants become more informed and inspired to take action.
Tenant portals, like Spike Living, can connect tenants with other like-minded neighbours via various online clubs and forums. By creating a place where tenants can share their own useful tips, organise their own community events such as neighbourhood clean-ups or volunteer days, this helps to instil a sense of togetherness and collective focus.
Furthermore, operators can also use this as an opportunity to report on their own impact and the initiatives they are undertaking, such as switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products, replacing communal lights to use energy efficient light bulbs, as well as openly responding to feedback from tenants.
Additionally, Spike Global has worked with Utopi to enable tenants to view their own energy usage and track their progress towards reducing their consumption in the Spike Living portal. While a tenant might look at their smart meter and not grasp what a kilowatt-hour is, showing they are using more energy than their neighbours will make them instantly better informed. Examples include the amount of energy used compared with others living in a similar-sized apartment, the amount of carbon used, or how much energy is saved by turning the heating down by one click.
Operators are also able to use this data to set targets for reduction in consumption and spot outliers and poor performing tenants, allowing them to offer advice and support, as well as highlight potential maintenance issues.
Working to change the behaviour of tenants can reap significant rewards. For example, strategies that tap into the natural human instinct to conform to social norms – such as providing feedback on consumption and comparison with others – can result in behaviour changes that reduce carbon emissions in the region of 7%-35%. And that’s just according to some more conservative estimates!
Tenant engagement portals can be a powerful tool for inspiring sustainable behaviour among tenants. By providing information and education, encouraging competition and collaboration, and offering greater transparency, this can create a more environmentally conscious community.
It’s easy to imagine a not-too-distant future where a property’s environmental credentials and the property operator’s ethos around sustainability may be the deciding factor for sustainability-savvy prospective tenants.
Want to learn more? Then download our Changing Behaviours report below.