Sustainability in the workplace and the B=MAP model

Published by Elaine Gallagher on

Sustainability in the worplace and the B=MAP model

Table of contents

Going green is a red hot topic in the business world. In recent years we’ve seen a big push for sustainability initiatives in the workplace affecting almost every industry.

One of the key challenges of creating sustainability in the workplace is changing workplace behaviours. What’s been the done thing for years, now has to change.

Getting employees to stop ingrained and habitual behaviours might sound like a complex task. Using the B=MAP model, it doesn’t have to be. Rather, you can turn this challenge into an opportunity.

The B=MAP model was developed by BJ Fogg in 2007 as a tool to help with designing for behaviour change. According to Fogg, many behaviour change campaigns were unsuccessful because the drivers of behaviour are not properly understood. Fogg came up with a simple solution that can be used to understand almost any behaviour.

What is the B=MAP model?

The B=MAP model tells us that behaviour relies on three things. They are motivation (M), ability (A), and a prompt (P). All three must be present at the same time for the behaviour to happen.

Motivation is essential for any behaviour to occur. We need to be motivated to do something, otherwise there is no driver. Motivation comes in many forms, and could relate to sensation, belonging, or anticipation.

Ability is also necessary. If we are not able to carry out the behaviour, being motivated is irrelevant. Ability isn’t just about the physical ability to do a task. It can also mean resources, such as time or money, or social opportunity such as education or cultural amenities.

Prompts are typically what trigger us to do the behaviour. Once motivation and ability are present, the prompt acts as a reminder and unlocks the action. A prompt may make the behaviour easier to do, remind us to do it, or spark us into action.

Once these three elements are present and all at the same time, then the behaviour can happen.

desk top with book and tablet displaying sustainability imagery

How can B=MAP kick-start sustainable workplace behaviours?

A common environmental issue in the workplace is the excessive use of disposable cups. 7 million coffee cups are used in the UK each day, with approximately one in every four hundred cups recycled. Tackling this particular issue around sustainability in the workplace is a good place to start.

We now know that for a behaviour to take place, the three elements of motivation, ability, and a prompt need to be present. 

So, when we want to stop or reduce a behaviour, we have to find a way to remove one of those elements to disrupt the behaviour.

Can motivation be removed? The motivation to use a disposable cup may be due to social acceptance. If everyone else in the office is using one, then I’m more likely to follow suit. This type of motivation can be hard to crack.

Can ability be removed? The ability to use the disposable cups can be linked with a number of things. For example, the availability of the cups, the presence of the coffee and tea station, and the water cooler. The ability can also relate to having time to use the cups for their drinks.

Can a prompt be removed? Many prompts to take a hot drink occur during the day, such as at break, lunch, and just before a meeting. The prompt to use disposable cups for these drinks may be that they facilitate my behaviour, for example, the disposable cup allows me to have a drink. The prompt may also be seeing others using the cups.

Looking at this example, ability appears to be the best option to look at to stop the unwanted behaviour. The ability to use a disposable cup can be easily removed. If disposable cups are no longer supplied by the company, this forces me into alternative options, such as using mugs, or taking a travel cup into work.

coffe mug on a workplace desk, with a smiley face note stuck on the front

Can the B=MAP model be used to solve other behavioural issues?

Of course, this approach can be used to encourage lots of other sustainable workplace behaviours, and we’ve behavioural design to solve many workplace challenges. It’s not just limited to sustainability initiatives. B=MAP can be applied to a vast range of workplace behaviours.

Depending on the target behaviour or workplace issue, you need to figure out if you need to facilitate or prevent motivation, ability, and a prompt occurring to get to your desired outcome. 

Look out for next blog on how you can use the B=MAP model to start a new behaviour, or get in touch to find out more.


Related stories

Changing behaviour

Time to change… 

Why do we behave the way we do? It can be hard to change our less desirable behaviours when they are highly ingrained and have become habits we perform automatically without thinking.

digital user experience conceptual image
Best Practice

The inaccessibility of dark patterns

Even if you haven’t heard the phrase Dark Patterns, the chances are you’ve almost certainly come across them — both online and in the physical world.