Understanding what makes some people choose to live a sustainable lifestyle while others don't worry at all about the environmental consequences of their actions is of interest to both marketers and policymakers.
If they are able to understand what makes some people go "green" while others continue to live without regard for the environment, they might be better able to draft policy and market products in a way that appeals to a broader range of people.
Now, scientists have taken a first step toward getting inside the minds of consumers by identifying which personality traits are more closely associated with sustainable behavior.
The researcher, Rune Ellemose Gulev of the University of Applied Sciences in Kiel, Germany, found that countries in which the populace was concerned with having high social cohesion or having tolerance and respect also scored highly with regards to environmental and social sustainability. People who value social responsibility among business leaders and those societies that had higher trust in one another were also more likely to be more focused on sustainability.
On the other hand, some traits tied to sustainability were less than obvious. For example, sustainable habits and practices were tied closely to countries where high levels of pay were important to people. Conversely, populations that were considered "unselfish" or focused on equality for all were not as likely to practice sustainable behaviors.
Gulev said the results show that sustainable behavior can be predicted and facilitated by understanding people's attitudes and how they correlate to their real- life behaviors.
"Taken holistically, the results provide clear indication that some attitudes and values in people do facilitate sustainable behavior and that these attitudes and values can be fostered to create greater sustainable behavioral practices," Gulev said. "It is hoped that the results initiate a debate and further motivation for research into sustainable practices."
The research will be featured in the International Journal of Sustainable Economy.