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Preventing deliberate grassfires

18 January 2011

An innovative approach to promote socially responsible behaviour has proved successful in a project aimed at preventing deliberate fire-setting in the South Wales Valleys.

‘Project Bernie’ - a collaboration which included Cardiff University’s ESRC Centre for Business Relationships Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS), the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) and Alexander Consultants – used principles of Social Marketing to design a new approach to tackle this problem.

On average, there are more than 7,000 incidents of mountain and grass fires each year in South Wales, at an estimated annual cost of £7M. This, however, excludes the costs of damage to the environment, property, wildlife and forestry resources; the impact on local businesses, tourism and the countryside; as well as the potential risk to people’s lives.

A series of in-depth interviews and focus groups with local youngsters, adults and other stakeholders in the pilot community of Tonypandy, helped to establish who were setting the fires and why. These research insights enabled the development of a multi-faceted behavioural intervention programme based on a strategic "social marketing mix".

The SWFRS worked with young people in the community to design a series of events and diversionary activities during the school Easter holidays. Tonypandy teenagers also developed a campaign "brand" based on a Bernie the sheep logo, inspired by bushcraft and survival expert Ray Mears, with the strapline "Grass is green, fire is mean".

The success of the campaign was corroborated by a 46% reduction in deliberate grassfires over the six week intervention period around Easter.

Lead research of the project, Dr Sue Peattie, an Associate of BRASS and a Lecturer in Marketing at Cardiff Business School, says:" Bernie's story demonstrates the potential of Social Marketing to develop innovative approaches to previously intractable problems and to promote cost-effective public service delivery even in services which have never previously applied it."



Notes to Editors

1. A seminar detailing the story of ‘Project Bernie’ is taking place on Monday 24th January in the Glamorgan Building Committee rooms. The event will feature speakers from BRASS, SWFRS and Tonypandy Community College.

To register your attendance please visit:

2.Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University President Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Three major new Research Institutes, offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places were announced by the University in 2010.

3. The ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society exists to understand and promote the key issues of sustainability, accountability and social responsiveness, through research into key business relationships. The Centre will pursue a research agenda based on academic excellence, relevance to key user groups and accessibility in dissemination.

The Centre will approach its research mission by making a significant contribution locally through involvement in the Welsh economy and policy community, nationally as a centre of excellence, and globally through research on transnational companies and other firms with international supply chains.

Through its research work, partnerships with businesses and their stakeholders, and communications activities BRASS aims to contribute significantly to:

· The development and dissemination of new knowledge and understanding about the significant changes occurring in the relationships among firms, their customers and suppliers, investors, communities, government and a range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs);

· The creation of a better understanding of corporate accountability and governance based on an integrative, systems perspective;

· The development and promotion of new tools, models and business methods which will help practitioners, policy makers and researchers to better understand and manage the implications of business activity in relation to the pursuit of sustainability;

· The fostering of a more holistic and inter-disciplinary approach to the understanding of the interaction between businesses and their social and physical environment.

Further Information:

Catrin Palfrey
Public Relations Office,
Cardiff University.
Tel: 029 2087 0293

Dr Sue Peattie
Lecturer in Marketing
Cardiff Business School
Tel: 029 2087 5723