Commitment Institutional Change Principle
Commitment can be a crucial element that helps Federal agencies inject and emphasize sustainability in their organizational culture. Institutions and people change when they have made definite commitments to change, especially when those commitments relate to future conditions. Research shows that explicit commitments improve the rate at which people adopt energy-efficient behaviors.
Explicit commitments help individuals make behavioral changes by externalizing their internal desires and goals to ensure follow-through. Conveying goals to others also increases the probability of achieving them and prevents procrastination. Precommitting to a request can lead to subsequently agreeing to a much larger commitment. This spillover effect occurs because people have a strong desire to be consistent and for others to view them as being consistent.
Commitment techniques have proven to be successful in promoting sustainable behaviors, especially if the commitments are written rather than verbal. It's important to ask for specific commitments.
To learn more about the commitment principle, see Evidence-Based Background Material Underlying Guidance for Federal Agencies in Implementing Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans Implementing Sustainability: The Institutional-Behavioral Dimension.
As an example of a successful application, the U.S. Postal Service used the commitment behavior change principle to build "Lean Green Teams" along with a detailed guidebook on how to create a conservation-minded culture throughout the agency. Read the case study.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security included commitment in its Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan as a vital step for organizational performance and compliance with Federal requirements.
One more example of the use of the commitment principle is the Federal Energy Management Program's (FEMP) Commit to Efficiency campaign, which uses a personal commitment of signing a pledge to buy or specify energy-efficient products. FEMP's goal is to see improved compliance with Federal purchasing requirements from those who join their peers in committing to efficiency.