The value and impact of environmental psychology in policy and practice

Published on 27 June 2023

Some of the ACCESS network were at the International Conference on Environmental Psychology (ICEP) in Aarhus, Denmark last week (20-23 June).  ACCESS led a panel discussion on the value and impact of Environmental Psychology research.

Birgitta Gatersleben, Co-Director of ACCESS chaired the discussion ‘The value and impact of environmental psychology in policy and practice’.

The discussion opened with the following statements:

  • Environmental psychology has a significant and important role to play in tackling major environmental challenges, including biodiversity loss, climate change and wider sustainability issues.
  • These are complex challenges of human-environment interactions, a key focus of environmental psychology research. Unfortunately, the potential contributions of environmental psychology in tackling these challenges are not always fully recognised or valued. For instance, in major environmental research investments, social science is often siloed in tasks organised around social topics or ‘added on’ at later stages. Moreover, environmental solutions are often framed as technological or ecological fixes, underestimating social dimensions of policy and practice interventions.

The panellists were Sarah Golding (ACCESS Knowledge Exchange Fellow, University of Surrey), Chris Jones (ACCESS Co-Investigator, University of Portsmouth), Melissa Marselle (ACCESS Co-Investigator, University of Surrey), Linda Steg (ACCESS advisory board member, University of Groningen, The Netherlands), John Thøgersen (organizer of ICEP conference, Aarhus University, Denmark), and Lorraine Whitmarsh (ACCESS Co-Investigator, University of Bath).

Each panellist introduced themselves and included examples from their own work where impact has been significant or challenging. There was then a discussion led by Birgitta Gatersleben, with questions invited from the audience. The conversations centred around identifying ways to improve the impact of environmental psychologist’s work nationally and internationally in policy, practice, research and education.

Birgitta Gatersleben, “One question from the audience asked what did we mean by impact? Impact on what? And for whom? The panel reflected on what it meant to have impact and what the role is of social scientists and environmental psychologists to generate or “chase” and track impact. Although there was general agreement that impact is important, there were different views on what this means and for who. There was a lot of interest in the work ACCESS is doing and we hope there’ll be more opportunities to talk about how our work can have impact”.