In this article, How will Social Contagion affect the way you run your business – and what does Social Contagion mean?


We’ve reached the point where businesses must embrace Climate Action or get left behind. That’s not only because we’re facing a climate emergency, but also because people are realising that their choices are part of the problem – and the solution.  But do your employees care whether the company they work for jumps on the Sustainability Bandwagon?

The shift towards creating a better world has steadily grown over the last three to five years. This trend has been intensified by the pandemic bringing about a realisation that we are a global nation. We’re all interlinked with each other and the natural world we share.

Where’s the Evidence?

If you’re not already aware of it, open your eyes to the number of articles in the press and media expounding green innovations. You don’t have to dig deep to see the growing proportion of companies pledging net-zero or carbon neutral targets. Simply look at the number of trucks on the roads displaying branded references to their contribution to an environmentally conscious normal.

Frame it the Right Way Round

Sky News has just launched its Daily Climate Change programme, proudly stating it to be a newscasting channel first. Yet, in the introduction, their correspondent negatively quotes survey findings which demonstrate a quarter of participants are unwilling to change habits to tackle climate change. Turn that figure round to refram3 positively. Now what you have is the majority – in fact three times as many –  who acknowledge the need for systemic shift in behaviours.

This is crucial, because the tipping point for social contagion to influence cultural change is only 23% of a population, appreciably less than the 75% cited in the survey.

Social Contagion Explained

Social Contagion is defined in the APA Dictionary of Psychology as ‘the spread of behaviours, attitudes, and affect through crowds and other types of social aggregates from one member to another.’

In layman’s terms, this is how ideas and behaviours are spread by groups of individuals, influencing others to take on board new concepts or changes in approach. Read on, because you’ll be surprised by how few people need to believe a new concept for it to gain traction.

 What Social Contagion has to do with Your Business?

Have you considered how many team players in your business are ‘on board’ with being involved in sustainability? Think of your business in terms of the people who drive it forward. Its success and profitability is the direct result of people within it, carrying out the tasks to make success happen.

Like the survey respondents, both your workforce and customer base, in the main are ready and actively seeking to adapt their behaviours.

Instead of focussing on the minority, put your effort into what the majority wants and continued profitability will flow. The laggards may eventually decide to join the ranks of a newly motivated workforce and more loyal customer base. Attitudes are unquestionably changing and 65% employees* want to work for companies which demonstrate genuine environmental and social conscience.

* PwC survey of 10,000 members of the general population based in China, Germany, India, the UK and the US.

Build the Benefits

My experience with implementing a client Sustainability Programme is a measurable increase in productivity, reduced absenteeism, improved timeliness; all metrics which are tangible and drive profit.

As you build your Sustainability Programme activities, share team achievements along the way. This evidence of success is known as Social Proof, providing credibility for actions and supporting the process of social contagion.

Develop Your Company’s Sustainability Programme

Ask your teams what they want. Most of them are eager for climate action. They just want leadership to give them the go ahead and show them how.

If you need support making your sustainability initiative easy, book a call with me.





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