A new take on pro-environmental behaviour

This week’s post tackles one major aspect of sustainability: pro-environmental behaviour. In order to achieve a more sustainable society it is crucial to encourage individual pro-environmental behaviours. Yet this is proving difficult for policy-makers and marketers alike. Although their efforts have resulted in an increased environmental awareness, there is well-known gap between people’s intentions and attitudes towards the environment and their behaviour. How should this gap be tackled?

Much research on pro-environmental behaviour focuses on engendering positive attitudes and intentions. But if these already exist, clearly they are not enough to make people be green. In fact, numerous obstacles are shown to prevent pro-environmental behaviour: increased effort and time involved, reduced convenience, lack of reliable information to name just a few. So how can we help people overcome these obstacles and become greener?

A potential avenue is self-control theory, which assumes self-control is required for people to successfully overcome obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals. Self-control theory also provides a range of useful methods to improve people’s self control.

The questions that follow from this are whether self-control is required for pro-environmental behaviour and if so, can self-control methods help people be greener? This new take on pro-environmental behaviour offers an extensive scope for exploration and potentially valuable insights for reducing the intention-behaviour gap. One of the ESA members is currently conducting research in this area so as to shed light into this matter.

What are your thoughts?

Further reading:

Hassan, L. M., Shiu, E., & Shaw, D. (2014). Who Says There is an Intention – Behaviour Gap ? Assessing the Empirical Evidence of an Intention – Behaviour Gap in Ethical Consumption. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2440-0

Myrseth, O. R., & Trope, Y. (2009). Counteractive self-control: When making temptation available makes temptation less tempting. Psychological Science. 20, 2, p. 159-163.

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