Johnson Controls

Case study: Sustainable Cultures for Johnson Controls


Whilst office buildings are becoming more efficient, the way we work still often wastes energy and resources. Office lights are left on, plastic cups are used once and sent to landfill and travel by air and car is common. Companies who need to reduce their environmental impact struggle to run successful green initiatives, and find their poster campaigns and email reminders are easily ignored.

This two year research project looked at attitudes towards sustainability amongst people who work in large offices, in order to understand how companies can engage employees and motivate them to change their behaviour.


I joined this study as the communications expert, working closely with another design researcher.

  • working with a workplace psychologist to conduct interviews with employees and create a framework for defining workplace cultures

  • running case studies across three multinational companies from three different industry sectors (consumer goods, financial services and real estate)

  • conducting workshops with employees to get feedback on different styles of communication and ideas for initiatives

  • literature review on methods of behaviour change

  • expert interviews with sustainability managers across a range of organisations

  • working with a social scientist to develop our qualitative research methods into a quantitative survey for use by large organisations

  • developing workshops and mapping activities that can be used by sustainability managers to plan their initiatives

  • producing a tool kit to share our findings


This research was used to create a tool kit to help companies plan environmental initiatives that are tailored to the culture of their workplace. For example, in a housekeeper company culture, employees believe that they all need to do their bit. Initiatives that require more effort from employees, such as carpooling, are more likely to be successful in these organisations. In a libertarian culture, employees are less likely to engage with initiatives that ask them to give something up. They are more motivated by competitive activities, such as tracking and comparing their cycle to work.

You can hear more about this project here

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