The OECD EPIC Surveys explore the drivers behind household behaviour and how policies may affect decisions in key consumption areas. Following two previous rounds of the EPIC Survey in 2008 and 2011, a third round was implemented in 2022 with a sample of more than 17,000 households across nine countries: Belgium, Canada, Israel, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The third round addresses household behaviour in four key areas: energy, transport, waste and food consumption.
The third round of the survey came at a time of interlocking global crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, geo-political tensions and tumultuous energy and commodity markets. These challenges, combined with the urgent need to address climate change and broader environmental challenges, underlines the importance of an enhanced understanding of household behaviour and the barriers to more sustainable household choices. The EPIC Survey provides unique insights into the drivers of these choices and the measures governments can put in place to overcome the barriers identified.
Targeting behaviour change relies on a well-developed understanding of public perception and how individuals interact with exposure to different policy measures. Recent changes in the environmental, political, technological and economic context contribute to the need to reassess environmental attitudes and behaviour as well as the effectiveness of environmental policies.
Insights arising from the overview report span across four thematic areas: energy use, transport, food consumption and waste. Several key findings include:
A mix of technological advances, policy support measures and behavioural adjustments is necessary to improve the sustainability of residential energy use. This will entail a shift from more polluting primary energy sources to electricity to deliver residential energy needs. As households rely more on electricity relative to other energy sources, electricity generation itself will also need to rely to a greater extent on renewables.
Effective transport decarbonisation policies are needed for a more sustainable future for the sector. In particular, they should promote reductions in unnecessary travel, shifting to less polluting transport modes, improving energy efficiency and scaling up the use of electric cars and low-carbon fuels. These changes will help to minimise overall transport demand, reduce the use of motorised vehicles and reduce the emissions intensity of the average passenger kilometre travelled.
Read more [Chapter 3: Household behaviour and transport]
The environmental consequences of material use are far reaching and relate to the extraction and processing activities required to obtain resources, as well as to use and dispose of them. Policy measures to reduce waste generation and enhance the resource efficiency of economies and the circularity of materials use are those that encourage reuse and repair, improve product durability, and enhance or extend product use and recycling. Shared economy approaches such as car sharing and purchasing items second-hand are examples of enhanced or extended product use.
Food systems face a triple challenge to provide food security to a growing population, to improve environmental sustainability and to provide for farmers and those whose livelihoods depend on the food supply chain. Demand side measures in food consumption, such as dietary shifts away from resource-intensive products, can deliver environmental benefits on a scale not achievable by improving production methods alone.