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4.3.2 Models of Pro-Environmental Behavior

Behavioral Change at Sam's Club Brian Sheehan, former Sustainability Manager at Sam's Club, shared his views on how to promote behavioral change among employees saying:

It's got to do those five things—it's got to be easy to understand and execute, it's got to be understood so that people can execute it. It's got to be desirable. It's got to be rewarding, and not necessarily financially but that does not hurt. And you have to be reminded about it, constantly or regularly. So unless it does all five of those things, we know that we don't get behavior change. So we are designing programs that hopefully achieve all five of those things.

Brian's ideas dovetail nicely with some of the elements appearing in the theoretical models we cover in this chapter.

Researchers have investigated a myriad of potential psychological, sociological, and communication antecedents to pro-environmental behavior. A number of excellent reviews of the various theories exist (e.g., Kollmuss and Agyeman 2010; Stern 2000). Some of the major theories and concepts are summarized here to help researchers and sustainability professionals better understand antecedents to pro-environmental behavior outside the workplace. For example, Kollmuss and Agyeman (2010) review theories for explaining the gap between environmental knowledge and awareness and the display of pro-environmental behavior: early linear progression models; altruism, empathy, and prosocial behavior models; and sociological models. In addition, several models commonly associated with health and energy efficiency campaigns are included along with information on social marketing. All of the models show validity in certain circumstances, but the question of what shapes pro-environmental behavior is such a complex one that it has yet to be visualized on one framework or diagram.

4.3.2.1 Linear Progression Models

The linear progression models suggest that if you provide individuals with information that changes their attitudes, this will change their behaviors. In order to act, we must be aware of environmental problems and the consequences of individual behaviors (Deci and Ryan 2000). Awareness is a precondition for pro-environmental action. The information we need in order to act must be specific. People must have the declarative and procedural knowledge necessary to act. In other words, they must know what to do and how to do it. Direct experiences have a stronger influence on people's behavior than indirect experiences (e.g., seminars, reading materials, classes).

Experiential Learning at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Aspen/ Snowmass The importance of direct experiences, indirect learning, and rewards was illustrated by Moe Tabrizi, former Assistant Director of Engineering and Campus Sustainability Director for the University of Colorado, Boulder, who described his organization's Peak to Peak (P2P) program. His campus is one of the most sustainable in the USA, and P2P was designed to integrate sustainability into the larger campus learning environment. The P2P program began in 2011– 2012 as a 2-day summer sustainability seminar for 40–50 faculty drawn from every academic program. It was so successful in the first year that the program was continued. Attendees are exposed to an in-depth discussion of the science of sustainability and to the best practices of sustainability on the campus. They tour some of the campus facilities and receive $500 in compensation from their provost for their time and their effort. Moe indicated the tours were an eye-opener for him:

I assumed if you are a faculty on this campus, you knew every corner of the campus. That is absolutely a wrong assumption, because most of our faculty members are so focused on their students and their research, they just think of one path to [and from campus]. Just because we build the latest, greatest, greenest residence hall on one corner of campus, or we have a solar farm in another corner of the campus, there is no guarantee that they have seen it or that they have heard about it. So [the tour] is an opportunity [for them] to get out of the classroom and just see the campus.

Sustainability communicators need to provide direct experiential learning opportunities for their audience members and not just assume. Auden Schendler at Aspen/Snowmass reinforced the importance of both points. For 10 years Auden sent articles and did presentations internally but “one of the classic epiphanies for our CEO was going to a Fortune conference in California and meeting all these other CEOs who are worried about this issue and working on sustainability. They were not freaks and weirdoes. They were at Walmart and other big companies.”

However, the impact of knowledge alone on behavioral change has not been

supported by the research. In order for a message to be effective, people must not only attend to it but also cognitively process it in such a way as to lead to behavioral change. Over time, the linear models became more sophisticated. The theory of reasoned action (TRA) and the theory of planned behavior (TPB) (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975; Ajzen and Fishbein 1980) are influential social–psychological theories utilized by scholars in numerous disciplines. Indeed, TRA is considered by some to be the most influential attitude–behavior model in social psychology (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2010). It predicts behavior based on seven causal variables—behavioral intention, attitudes, subjective norms, belief strength, evaluation, normative belief, and motivation to comply (Greene 2009). TPB extends the TRA by adding an additional component, perceived behavioral control. Behavior is driven by intention which is influenced by a combination of attitudes (is this a good thing to do?), subjective norms (do others think I should do this?), and perceived behavioral control (can I do it?). Both models maintain that people are essentially rational, systematically using the information available to them so as to avoid punishments and seek rewards. These theories are of greater utility when behaviors have higher costs and individuals face strong constraints because that is when people devote attention and energy to processing messages.

Building on the TPB, Hines et al. (1986) published their model of responsible environmental behavior. Important antecedents to behavior include the message receiver's knowledge of issues, knowledge of action strategies, locus of control, pro-environmental attitudes, verbal commitment, and sense of responsibility. However, the relationships proposed in the model were only weakly supported, and additional situational factors influenced pro-environmental behaviors (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2010). These situational factors include economic constraints, social pressures and opportunities to choose different actions.

In order to replicate and extend the Hines et al. (1986) model, Bamberg and Moser (2007) published a meta-analysis drawing on 46 studies. Their key determinants of pro-environmental behavior were problem awareness, internal attributions, social norms, feelings of guilt, attitudes, moral norms, perceived behavioral control, and intention. Guilt was an interesting addition to their model. Guilt is an important prosocial emotion because it results in a felt obligation (moral norm) to act. It occurs when individuals recognize a perceived mismatch between their own behavior and social norms. Social norms directly influence moral norm development by indicating which behaviors respected others view as appropriate in a given context. The authors found that perceived behavioral control, attitudes, and moral norms explained 52 % of the variance in intention to act. In turn, intention directly explained 27 % of the variance in pro-environmental behavior. Feelings of guilt, social norms, internal attribution, and problem awareness predicted the moral norm construct (explaining 58 % of the variance). Social norms were directly associated with perceived behavioral control and attitude, and a direct association existed between guilt and attitude. Internal attribution was a significant predictor of social norms, moral norms, feelings of guilt, and attitude. This model is an important one because it largely validated the earlier model and summarized the last 20 years of this research stream.

Bamberg and Moser (2007) concluded that an individual's pro-environmental

behavior is a mixture of self-interest (as illustrated by the TRA) and concern for other groups beyond the family including other species or whole ecosystems (as illustrated by Schwartz' norm-activation model which appears next). They write (p. 21):

The intention to perform a pro-environmental behavioral option can be described as a weighted balance of information concerning the three questions 'How many positive/ negative personal consequences would result from choosing this pro-environmental option compared to other options?', 'How difficult would the performance of the pro-environmental option be compared to other options?', and 'Are there reasons indicating a moral obligation for performing the pro-environmental option?'

 
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