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Office Politics and Recycling

Office Politics vs. Recycling

A recent study found that messages encouraging people to use recycle bins were more effective when they were tailored to the individual’s political beliefs. Take a look at the results and what they may mean for promoting recycling in your workplace.

A study conducted by Blair Kidwell of the Ohio State University and Adam Farmer & David Hardesty of the University of Kentucky reviewed two related experiments on which messages worked best for consumers who identified themselves as liberals or as conservatives. They both found sharp differences between the two groups.

The liberal group strongly preferred approaches that emphasized:

  • fairness
  • the common good 
  • reduction of harm to the environment

The conservative group expressed more interest in recycling when presented with language about:

  • duty
  • authority
  • group affiliations

Images featuring charities like Habitat for Humanity worked better with the consumers who called themselves liberals while patriotic images scored higher with the conservatives. 

Of course, there may be good reasons why you don’t want to probe too deeply into your employee’s personal beliefs. Then again, you may have some sense of their general philosophy from working with them every day. In any case, it is beneficial to pick the approach best suited to your organization or use a variety of messages to reach different audiences.

Try forming an employee committee to review samples of pro-recycling messages and help design your own campaign and materials. Test how they perceive elements like environmental and social benefits. If you’re a small business, you can gain valuable insights into seeing if employees all express the same preferences. If you’re a larger organization, you can find out whether you need to diversify your messages for individual units or departments.


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