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Segmentation Analysis

Segmentation analysis (also known as market segmentation or audience segmentation) is a process of dividing a larger population into smaller subpopulations or segments in order to identify psychological and socio-demographic correlates of target behaviors or values. Members of subpopulations are statistically more similar to one another than they are to members of other subpopulations.[120] Common segment factors include demographic, psychological, and behavioral variables, such as income, age, attitude, race, sexual orientation, education, consumption, and leisure pursuits. Segmentation analysis combines these data into bundles of closely correlated attributes in order to define specific segments of the population.

How can Segmentation Analysis contribute to sustainability?

Segmentation analysis can help decision-makers better understand how social, economic, and environmental factors shape behaviors observed in specific segments of the population. It provides a powerful tool for better identifying and understanding potentially affected populations, and can help elucidate interactions and factors contributing to social disadvantage and environmental inequality. Segmentation analysis can also assist with stakeholder engagement by better identifying direct and indirect stakeholders and assessing the relationships between them; anticipating key concerns and values; and, informing problem formulation and scope for engagement.

Segmentation Analysis

What are the main steps in a Segmentation Analysis? 

The approach for conducting a segmentation analysis can and should reflect the attributes of the population, and the available data. However, the fundamental steps of segmentation analysis typically include:

  • Step 1—identify and collect available data on the attributes of the population under analysis;
  • Step 2—combine attribute data using statistical techniques, such as cluster analysis, to create mutually exclusive, robust, and measurable subsets of attributes that can be grouped into meaningful segments;
  • Step 3—correlate segments to data on target attributes in order to establish profiles or patterns of behavior that further define a segment (e.g. lifestyle groupings); and,
  • Step 4—apply the analysis to inform subsequent decisions, stakeholder engagement activities, or other analyses (e.g., environmental justice analysis).

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What are the strengths and limits of Segmentation analysis?  

Segmentation analysis is a powerful tool for understanding groups of populations with similar attributes. The degree to which causation may be established will vary with the quality and availability of data reflecting the attributes of the populations.

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How could Segmentation Analysis be used to support EPA decision-making?

Segmentation analysis has a variety of potential applications in EPA decision-making. In recent years, segmentation analysis has been applied in public health and environmental quality campaigns to better understand the values, lifestyles, and concerns of different groups.[121] Audience segmentation analysis currently informs EPA strategic communications on environmental quality and risk, as well as headline product labeling campaigns such as Energy Star, which incorporate direct outreach to consumers.[122] EPA’s SunWise partnership program, which produces targeted educational media for teaching children and caregivers about how to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun, is a good example of using knowledge about the attitudes and interests of school children to create effective learning tools.[123]

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Where to Find More Information about Segmentation Analysis

  • The Environmental Systems Research Institute’s Tapestry Segmentation Reference Guide (PDF) (2 pp, 8 K) Exit EPA Disclaimer provides a comprehensive lifestyle and place-based segmentation analysis of the US population using census and geological information system (GIS) data.
  • A recent segmentation study (PDF) (57 pp, 1.6MB) Exit EPA Disclaimer by George Mason University and Yale University examined how people in six different lifestyle segments understand and respond to messages about global climate change.
  • The US Census Bureau commissioned a segmentation study (PDF) (8 pp, 129K) Exit EPA Disclaimer to predict census return rates for different groups completing the 2010 census using its own socio-demographic data from the 2000 census.

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Illustrative Approach Applying Segmentation Analysis

  • Green Report: District of Columbia

    Source: ECOS Green Report: Case Studies on State Efforts to Achieve Sustainability, March 2012 [254] [Used with permission from the Environmental Research Institute of the States (ERIS), the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), and the District of Columbia]

    Suite of sustainability tools: segmentation analysis; social network analysis; social impact assessment; environmental justice analysis; life-cycle assessment; futures methods; benefit-cost analysis; eco-efficiency analysis

    Sustainability that matters to our community

    The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is currently coordinating a citywide sustainability planning effort for the Mayor. The Agency does not have an “official” formal definition of sustainability at this time. However, the Agency frequently uses a working definition that defines sustainability as the nexus of the environment, economics, and equity. DDOE also describes sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. These definitions are intended to be grounded in environmental protection, but inclusive of the critical connections between environment, economy, and equity.

    DDOE is home to core state and local programs that are simultaneously addressing sustainable practices including water and air quality protection, wildlife preservation and restoration, land remediation and toxics reduction, energy efficiency, and conservation. The Agency is working to integrate traditional regulatory programs into citywide sustainable efforts to strengthen programs and achieve the greatest possible environmental, health, economic and other equity benefits of cross-media coordination.

    Sustainable DC
    DDOE is co-lead (with the DC Office of Planning) of the Mayor’s sustainability planning process called Sustainable DC.

    Sustainable DC was launched in September 2011 with an intensive community outreach program. Throughout September and October, staff attended 50 community meetings and events to hear people's visions for a sustainable DC and actions the community can take to realize those visions. In November 2011, nine working groups (focusing on the built environment, climate, energy, food, nature, transportation, waste, water, and the overall green economy) were launched to develop recommended goals, actions, and indicators. These recommendations will be integrated into a draft plan in summer 2012.

    In this role, DDOE is playing a coordination function among the Green Cabinet, representing more than a dozen key agencies directly affecting citywide sustainability, including transportation, public works, health, public schools, real estate, economic development, employment services, and water and housing authorities.

    STAR Community Index
    DDOE also is coordinating with a national effort to develop the STAR Community Index. This is a framework for gauging the “triple bottom line” of sustainability and livability of US communities. STAR is intended to transform the way local governments plan and develop policies in the way that the US Green Building Council’s LEED program transformed the building industry. STAR will measure a jurisdiction’s sustainability across measures in specific categories. Through these standardized measures, cities will be able to more objectively assess their progress towards sustainability and compare themselves to other cities across the country.

    Because of the size and complexity of STAR’s scope, ten jurisdictions were selected to serve as beta communities (Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Boulder, CO; Chattanooga, TN; Cranberry Township, PA; Des Moines, IA; King County, WA; New York, NY; St. Louis, MO; and the District of Columbia). These communities will test and review the measures for appropriateness and feasibility.

    Benefit-Cost Analysis and Eco-Efficiency Analysis
    DDOE implements stormwater management projects on public sites. When evaluating project proposals, DDOE staff evaluates the cost/benefit of each proposal. The evaluation includes an analysis of the dollars per gallon of stormwater retained or treated, and whether the proposal will implement new technologies that may be beneficial to the District’s water quality efforts. At a much larger scale, staff is analyzing the relative environmental, economic development (jobs), and social equity benefits of digging huge tunnels to manage stormwater flows versus a large-scale deployment of green infrastructure (i.e., Low-Impact Development). Whereas traditional analysis might only look at the relative environmental performance and costs of these systems, this new sustainability-driven analysis will assess job creation, social support (i.e., unemployment and other social services) investment reduction, heat-island effect mitigation, community beautification, property value enhancement, and the costs and environmental performance of these systems.

    Environmental Justice Analysis
    DDOE considers social equity as a cornerstone of sustainability. Like many other states and local jurisdictions, DC, through DDOE’s Office of Enforcement and Environmental Justice, reviews major development plans to assure that no disparate environmental harms are imposed on minority and low-income populations. Under the Mayor’s evolving sustainability strategy, EJ will likely evolve into much more than a risk assessment/risk management process, and will become a means of assessing the relative benefits of District investments on the distribution of opportunity and hardship across the city. A good example is the new program incorporated into the DDOE’s proposed stormwater regulations, which would allow off-site stormwater mitigation for projects that cannot meet the city’s aggressive 1.2 inch rainfall retention standard. These off-site projects likely will occur in less-developed portions of the city, which tend to be DC’s lowest-income communities. This option will bring substantial investment in tree planting, bioretention, green roofs, and other practices that will not only allow more and better stormwater management, but also will create jobs and beautify neighborhoods– and reduce the significant social disparities across DC. And the program will increase stormwater management by over 50 percent, while reducing costs by 30 percent.

    Future Scenario Analysis
    During the next year, DDOE will forecast the impacts of the District’s revised stormwater regulations. The purpose of this analysis is to determine how future development will lead to improvements in water quality and how DDOE’s new off-site mitigation program will impact EJ issues in the city.

    Life-Cycle Assessment
    The District's revised stormwater regulations will include a payment-in-lieu option for sites that cannot otherwise meet their regulatory obligations. To determine the appropriate price for this option, DDOE staff developed a life-cycle cost assessment to capture the full cost of implementing stormwater practices.

    Segmentation Analysis, Social Impact Assessment, and Social Network Analysis
    The District has developed a new social marketing campaign to reduce litter. The campaign includes significant social and psychological (focus groups and interviews) analysis to determine the root causes of litter and to develop effective messages and approaches that will have an impact. Additionally, the program has surveyed residents to evaluate the impact of the marketing campaign as well as the new Bag Law that requires a 5-cent fee on disposable paper and plastic bags. 

    In addition to the tools mentioned above, DDOE has developed some new tools to measure the District’s sustainability activities:

    • Green Dashboard
      To help residents understand the District’s progress in becoming a more sustainable place in which to live, work, visit, and play, DDOE’s Office of Policy and Sustainability developed an online interactive Green Dashboard containing approximately 60 indicators in six categories (air quality and climate, energy and buildings, nature, transportation, waste and recycling, and water). Users are able to manipulate the data by time period and metric to suit their interests and will be able to also download raw data and image files of graphs for later use. Additionally, the Dashboard provides contextual information for each indicator, including information on what the data mean, why they are important, how the District compares to other jurisdictions, and ways users can get involved. Information is presented in an easy-to-read style with images and links to make the information engaging and digestible.
    • GreenUp DC
      DDOE developed GreenUp DC, an interactive web tool that teaches property owners how to reduce their energy footprint and stormwater releases. The tool tracks energy reduction and stormwater activities, and creates reports that allow DDOE to fulfill its legal obligations to US EPA. GreenUp DC allows DDOE to be transparent and responsive with up-to-the-minute statistical reporting on energy performance and stormwater reductions.

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  • EPA’s Healthy Schools Program

    Sources: EPA Office of Children’s Health Protection [270]

    Suite of sustainability tools: risk assessment; segmentation analysis

    Healthy schools are essential for ensuring a sustainable future for America’s children. More than 53 million children and about 6 million adults spend a significant portion of their days in more than 120,000 public and private school buildings. Many of these buildings are old and in poor condition, and may contain environmental conditions that inhibit learning and pose increased risks to the health of children and staff. Unhealthy school environments can affect attendance, concentration and performance, as well as lead to expensive, time consuming cleanup and remediation activities. EPA has developed a variety of tools to help prevent and resolve environmental issues and improve sustainable practices in schools, including the three examples outlined below.

    Voluntary Guidelines for Selecting Safe School Locations

    On October 3, 2011, EPA released the final School Siting Guidelines. These guidelines can be used by communities to help protect the health of students and staff from environmental threats when selecting new locations for schools. The new voluntary guidelines will help local communities consider environmental health issues in establishing school site selection criteria and in conducting effective environmental reviews of prospective school sites. The guidelines recommend involving the public throughout the site selection process to help ensure community support for these decisions.
    EPA developed the guidelines in consultation with other Federal agencies, states, school districts, community organizations, health care professionals, teachers, as well as environmental justice, children’s health and environmental groups, among others.
    By following the recommendations in the guidelines, communities, tribes, territories and states can help provide a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment for children, teachers and staff.

    Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools Action Kit

    TheIAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit shows schools how to carry out a practical plan to improve indoor air problems at little- or no-cost using straightforward activities and in-house staff. The Kit provides best practices, industry guidelines, sample policies, and a sample IAQ management plan. This initiative is co-sponsored by the National Parent Teacher Association, National Education Association, Association of School Business Officials, American Federation of Teachers, and the American Lung Association.

    Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool

    HealthySEAT is a free, completely customizable software tool to help school districts establish and manage comprehensive facility self-assessment programs. Examples of school environmental hazards include chemical releases, pesticide exposures, flaking lead paint, mold and other indoor air quality problems, and damaged asbestos-containing building materials.

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