Who does what: The pro-environmental behaviours of Australian workers

Janine Chapman

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Executive summary. Accumulating evidence suggests that social factors are an important influence on pro-environmental household behaviours. However, existing research is dominated by individualistic perspectives, which assume that the main barriers to pro-environmental action are a lack of personal interest and appropriate information. This report is part of a wider, multi-method project and summarises the findings from an investigation ofthe environmental attitudes and behaviours of 7399 Australian workers in 2007-2008. Initial findings suggest that while pro-environmental values were associated with good outcomes, psychological factors did not fully explain pro-environmental action. Data was analysedfrom the 2007-08 Multipurpose Household Survey, a national survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Overall concernabout environmental problemsacross the samplewas very high. However, there was considerable variability in reports of pro-environmental action, indicating a gap between values and behaviour. The main analyses considered how various socio-demographic,psychological and work-related measures were associated with outcomes for personal electricity consumption, personal water consumption, and waste and recycling behaviours. Environmental concern was positively associated with all environmental behaviours, but other factors significantly predicted good outcomes. Electricity conservationwas stronger amongst women, older adults, those with higher levels of education, and those without children under 15. Water conservation was stronger amongstolder adultsand single-parent families. Good outcomes for recycling and waste disposal behaviours were generally associated with women, couple households, those with higher levels of education, lower household incomes, and working part-timehours. Taken together, these findings showthat behavioural capacityis shaped not only by individual values, but also by factors such as life-stage, gender, household and family composition. This report considers how the patterns of Australian workers’ environmental behaviours are reflective ofthe social and political climate in which we live and work. Although recommendationsshould be considered preliminary in relation to the wider project, the study indicates that targeted information-based policies would benefit from a move towards broader institutional change. It may be that action levelled at secure work and housing arrangements for young people; a re-distribution of unpaid and flexible work,and a greater emphasis on social cohesion and community incentives may have a positive and far-reaching impact on individual attempts to live sustainably.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAdelaide, SA
PublisherCentre for Work + Life, UniSA
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9780980839043
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


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