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I/O and Conservation Psychology: A Natural Partnership for Sustainability Elise L. Amel & Britain A. Scott University of St. Thomas Christie M. Manning.

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Presentation on theme: "I/O and Conservation Psychology: A Natural Partnership for Sustainability Elise L. Amel & Britain A. Scott University of St. Thomas Christie M. Manning."— Presentation transcript:

1 I/O and Conservation Psychology: A Natural Partnership for Sustainability Elise L. Amel & Britain A. Scott University of St. Thomas Christie M. Manning Macalester College

2 What is sustainability? Living, working and developing in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

3 To the degree that environmental problems are largely due to human behavior and solutions will rely on changing these behaviors, psychology is an essential player in the movement toward environmental sustainability.

4 Unsustainable environmental impacts are often the unintended, compound result of decision makers and employees going about their work the way it has been traditionally structured.









13 Areas for Action Priority: Energy Use Transportation Food Choices Also Important: Water and Paper Waste



16 I/O Psychologist have Mad Skills!

17 Our Research Context Multi-year collaboration with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to: –assess effectiveness of sustainability events –generate baseline data on attendees environmental knowledge & behaviors –identify areas for which MPCA could develop educational resources and exhibits Venues Living Green Expo attracts 20,000+ attendees Minnesota State Fair EcoExperience building attracts 350,000+ fairgoers (2nd most popular attraction at fair)

18 Methods Participants Participants represent a wide range of organization types (e.g., health care, government, church, manufacturing, music, education) and sizes (10 to over 5,000) Materials and Procedure Surveys take 10 minutes, asked about attitudes, knowledge and behavior regarding the environment. Participants were thanked and given sustainable goodies (e.g., low-flow shower and faucet heads, organic coffee or tea).

19 Demographics e.g., Living Green Expo 2008, St. Paul, MN N=115 Male=34%; Female=66% Median age = 44 Caucasian=84%; Asian=8% Protestant=28%; Catholic=15%; None=23% Median household income=50-74k College degree=44%; Advanced degree=26% Parents=52% Voted=84% Dem=53%; undec=20%; indep=16%; Rep=6%

20 Demographics e.g., State Fair 2007, St. Paul, MN N=115 Male=37%; Female=63% Median age = Caucasian=92%; Asian=4% Protestant=32%; Catholic=21%; None=16% Median household income=50-74k College degree=28%; Advanced degree=23% Voted=85% Dem=43%; undec=25%; Rep=17%

21 Initially, participants self-reported their own level of green behavior

22 Self-reported Green LGE attendees rated themselves as significantly more green than SF attendees e.g., t(183)=2.94, p<.01.

23 Global Satisfaction Overall satisfaction with ones workplace? (7-point scale from extremely dissatisfied to extremely satisfied). Similar (slightly satisfied) between the two samples. e.g., t(175).01.

24 Importance of Green Living Green Expo attendees (M=moderately important, Mode=extremely important) believe it is significantly more important that their workplace be sustainable than the State Fair attendees (M and Mode=slightly important). e.g., t(169)=3.9, p<.01)

25 Perceptions of Companies Could sustainability be compatible with organizations mission? mode=somewhat, on a scale ranging from not at all, to little, somewhat, or perfectly Workplace sustainability below light green (anchored as sometimes choose the most sustainable option…) for both groups, as were perceptions of coworkers greenness.

26 More Sample Questions To what degree has there been formal/informal discussion about increasing green behavior among employees in your workplace? Daily Weekly Monthly Quarterly Yearly Once Never I intend to talk with my coworkers about increasing green actions: 1 = strongly disagree 5 = strongly agree

27 Manifestations Formal discussion perceived as rare mode=never on 7-point scale never to daily Informal discussion surprisingly high (mode=weekly) on 7-point scale never to daily Almost 50% of the respondents indicated that their workplace does not support sustainable behavior through formal HR practices such as selection, training and performance appraisal.

28 Correlates of Satisfaction overall workplace satisfaction is significantly correlated with… …perceptions of how green an organization is (rs =.3, N=172, p<.01) …coworker greenness, and frequency of formal/informal discussions

29 Predicting Intentions Predictors of intention to talk to coworkers: self-reported level of green (rs =.41, N=129, p<.01) importance of ones organization being green (rs =.39, N=131, p<.01) perceptions of how green organization is (rs =.33, N=129, p<.01) overall workplace satisfaction (rs=.23, N=127, p<.01) *regressing all predictors on intention to talk leads to significant Betas for workplace greenness (.3) and overall satisfaction (.23), with R=.56 and R2=.32

30 Leave sustainable behavior at the (company) door? 50% responded that they conserve energy, minimize the impact of their food choices, and minimize the impact of their auto travel equally at work and at home. Slightly more (60% and 65%, respectively) recycle and conserve water equally at work and at home. Depending on the action, 25-50% of the respondents complete these behaviors more at home than at work, with 0-8% doing it more at work than at home.

31 Air Travel 40% of respondents said they do not avoid air travel when other transportation is available either at home or at work. Given the environmental effects of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and high-elevation vapor created by air travel, this is a behavior pattern of great concern.

32 Summary There are employees across diverse types and sizes of organizations believe workplaces should be sustainable Sustainability perceived to fit with many organizations mission Organizations generally rated low on greenness Informal sustainability discussion occurs, formal discussion does not, both are limited Intention to approach coworkers about green behavior predicted by perceptions of organizational greenness and worker satisfaction Actual sustainable behavior at work is the same or less frequent than at home. Limited external validity of findings due to sample; possibly best-case scenario among Americans

33 In short, these data show a fair amount of informal green buzz at work but a significant absence of formal sustainability-related policy and behavior.

34 In the media, Top-10 lists about what workers can do at work abound Few sources recognize that telling people what they can do does not translate automatically into a groundswell of behavior change Thats where we come in!

35 Integrate Sustainability into HR Systems Selection Criteria Performance Appraisal Training Job Analysis & Competency Modeling Selection Performance Appraisal Training Alternative work schedules & arrangements

36 Conduct Research on Relevant Psychological Concepts as they Relate to Sustainability Norms Modeling Efficacy Goal-setting Feedback Habits Systems Thinking Risk perceptions Transformational Leadership Etc…

37 Specific Change Ideas Actions you can take in your office!

38 Energy Use Purchase alternative energy Purchase energy efficient appliances Replace incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs and LEDs Eliminate electric vampires (especially plasma TVs) by using power strips and turning off rather than leaving on standby Set thermostat to 65 in winter and 74 in summer

39 Transportation Encourage worker and client commuting via carpooling, public transportation, bicycling and walking Reduce or eliminate unnecessary air travel Increase fuel efficiency of company fleet Encourage video conferencing

40 Food Choices Choose local, organic, and vegetarian Remember snacks, catering and restaurants Compost left-over food

41 Water and Paper Provide filtered tap water Set defaults to print double-sided Purchase high recycled-content supplies (e.g., paper, cartridges) Provide electronic instead of paper billing Reduce junk-mail and catalogs received

42 Garbage Plan zero-waste events by limiting packaging and disposables Company mug or water bottle that people can bring to meetings Recycle, donate and buy used equipment when possible

43 We have a lot to contribute… Join in or with division 34 of APA

44 Acknowledgments Philipp Muessig and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Northern Environmental Support Trust

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