Chapter 31: Sustainability in the workplace and the theory of planned behaviour: norms and identity predict environmentally friendly intentions
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Social psychology offers insights on sustainability-related action. Ajzen’s theory of planned behaviour posits that attitudes alone rarely predict intentions and behaviour. Individuals attend to social norms (the perceived requirements of a setting and/or a group to which the actor belongs) and perceived control (the sense that the actor is capable of the behaviour and the environment offers the opportunity). Recently, it has been suggested to include self-identity (the notion that the behaviour is part of who you are). This paper summarizes previous research on the social psychology of sustainability, and then reports a survey of 118 university staff measuring attitudes, social norms, perceived control, self-identity and intentions relating to office waste recycling, energy saving and transport choice. Overall, only self-identity and subjective norms reliably predicted intentions to act sustainably. Follow-up analyses highlight differences between behaviours, but self-identity always improved prediction. Universities can cultivate sustainability through norms and self-identities.

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