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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

All time references are in CEST

Towards Net Zero: Decreasing the environmental impact of surveys

Session Organiser Ms Joanna d'Ardenne (NatCen Social Research)
TimeTuesday 18 July, 16:00 - 17:00
Room U6-02

The European Parliament and over 30 national parliaments, from across the political spectrum, have formally declared a state of climate emergency. The man-made emissions that contribute to climate change come from every part of the world and they affect everyone. Every industry has a part to play in reducing their emissions, the survey industry included. The aim of this session to enable us to exchange knowledge and ideas on what good environmental practice looks like when designing and conducting surveys.
In this session we invite both survey commissioners and survey practitioners to discuss how we can lower the emissions generated by our industry and how we reduce the environmental impact of our research. We invite you to share the steps your organisation is currently taking, and what steps you hope to take, in order to reduce your environmental impact. We are interested in how environmental considerations can be built into research governance, survey design, mode choice, fieldwork delivery and procurement.
We are interested in environmental initiatives of all sizes, and all stages of completion. We believe that even small steps to reduce emissions are meaningful, especially if these steps can be shared and replicated by others. We also invite you to share any barriers you have faced when bringing environmental considerations into your research practice, and how these barriers can be overcome.

Keywords: Environment, climate change


An Unexpected Connection: Reducing the Ecological Footprint with Respondent-Centred Design

Ms Pamela Kultscher (Statistics Austria) - Presenting Author
Dr Andrea Schrott (Statistics Austria)
Ms Susanne Göttlinger (Statistics Austria)

NSOs like Statistics Austria are no exception to the need to reduce our ecological footprint. While conducting surveys we apply several strategies to lower CO2-emissions. Our most unexpected helper is our first principle for social surveys: a respondent-centred survey design (RCD) approach, which not only lowers respondent burden and improves data quality, but also reduces our ecological footprint.
At Statistics Austria, all respondent communication is sent in biodegradable envelopes produced without chlorine bleaching and made from 100% recycled materials. Our letter design complies with principles of plain language which is not only easier to read but also contains less text, reducing the number of pages printed. We use e-mails, text messages, and telephone calls as an emission-saving mode of contact whenever methodically appropriate and legal.
Our mixed-mode designs lead to the increased use of online questionnaires instead of face-to-face-interviews reducing fuel used to reach respondents at their homes. Tailored questionnaires and respondent centred wording and design improve memory performance and ease the orientation process, shorten item response times and questionnaires, and thus reduce energy consumption.
In most of our social surveys, respondents may choose either a shopping voucher or a donation for a raised bog renaturation project as their post-incentive. This has a direct and positive impact on the environment, but also increases respondents’ satisfaction and identification with the survey.
Finally, Statistics Austria uses a comprehensive survey management tool (STATsurv) that was specifically developed for our needs and that allows for automated workflows. These facilitate responsiveness in order to lower respondent burden. As an example, reminders are sent only to respondents who have not yet participated in or finished the survey.

Ideas on how to reduce CO2 emissions at each stage of the survey cycle

Ms Joanna d'Ardenne (NatCen Social Research) - Presenting Author

In this session we will look at the survey cycle and consider what CO2 emissions are associated with each step in the process. We will discuss how design choices related to sampling, mode combinations, recruitment, fieldwork, data storage and dissemination can impact on the total volume of CO2 generated. We will conclude by sharing some ideas on how CO2 emissions could be reduced at each step.