Patterns of unsustainable production and consumption have been recognized as main causes of climate change. The renewed Sustainable Development Strategy 2006 of the EU states that “the main challenge is to gradually change our current unsustainable consumption and production patterns and the non-integrated approach to policy-making” (European Council 2006). Despite cross-cutting multidisciplinary research and policy efforts in most European states it has not been possible to achieve significant changes in consumption and production which would reverse or slow down the devastating projections outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) for our ecosystem. Considerable research funds have been dedicated in the last few years to investigate the barriers to and drivers of transitions to sustainable societies and to define the processes and tools that would promote multi-level changes towards sustainability. Also, significant research has been dedicated to the design of robust and adaptive policy that would support change at different levels of government. It has long been recognized that for transitions to sustainable societies to be effective, it is necessary to tackle both consumption and production, and to conceptualize lifestyles as situated patterns of activities, in contexts such as workplaces, homes and communities. The present symposium will explore the multiple research dimensions and determinants of sustainability transitions, as well as the main obstacles to achieving considerable greenhouse gas emissions reductions in areas such as energy consumption, waste generation and management or mobility. It will explore the psychological and social factors influencing (un)sustainable behaviors, and the utility of different tools for the definition and testing of pathways for the transformation of workplaces and communities, such as participatory scenario development tools, modeling and simulations. Within a multi-disciplinary framework, it will show how social science theory, modeling tools and multi-method empirical research can describe the conditions under which sustainable lifestyles can become the norm, rather than the exception. Through the presentation of a wealth of empirical research, with a European-wide focus and scope, this symposium will present the main aspects of this new research agenda.


1. Cultural Values and Attitudes toward Environmental Sustainability

How fundamental cultural values affect students’ attitudes toward environmental sustainability? To address this issue, we surveyed 445 students at a university in the Midwestern United States. There were 195 males and 290 females, ranging in age from 18 to 63 (Mean = 32.36). Sixty-one percent were Caucasian, 11.4% were Hispanic, 14.6% were Black, and the remainder were from a variety of ethnic groups. A standardized test of Hofstede’s dimensions (Yoo, Danthu, &Lenartowicz, 2011) was entered in to an electronic survey together with 7 questions concerning attitudes toward environmental sustainability. While it is not too surprising that people who value long-term planning are also concerned about environmental sustainability, it was surprising to see that less masculine students were more concerned with the environment than the more masculine ones, especially since sex of participant did not enter the equation. While we had originally hypothesized that collectivism would be the strongest predictor of pro-environmental attitudes, it was actually only the third-best predictor. In retrospect, the relation of uncertainty avoidance to environmental sustainability makes sense, but was not hypothesized in advance. It was the weakest of all the significant predictors. Future research should examine relations between cultural values, environmental attitudes, and pro-environmental behaviors across varying cultures.

2. Workplaces in TNCSs: Can Green Practices be Transported across the Home-Workplace Border?

This paper reports on a three year study of two transnational corporations (truck production and oil and gas extraction) in Sweden and the UK, investigating under what conditions workers and managers are encouraged to transfer “green practices” from work to home and/or vice versa. We have also investigated how relationships between managers, employees and trade unions might encourage or prevent the adoption of ‘greener’ production processes. Both case studies draw on informational and life-history interviews to understand changes in practices over time as well as understanding the individual worker as a whole person whose motivations, actions and constraints are intimately tied to different aspects of their lives and identities. Our findings explain why workers are often unable and unwilling to carry practices between home and work, why they draw borders between those areas and under which conditions they become permeable and “green practices” are carried from home to work and vice versa. We have found how limited communication between hierarchical levels within companies as well as inflexible management structures and practices discourage workers to suggest and implement environmentally beneficial changes.

3. Transmission of pro-environmental norms in large organisations

A questionnaire study was carried out as part of this wider project, and various individual psychological constructs were operationalized within the questionnaire. Constructs included: values, norms, identity, and of the level of identification with the organisation. This presentation will focus on findings from two of the LOCAW case studies (Enel green power and the University of A Coruna), and will add an additional case (Aberdeenshire Council) to test the robustness of the findings. Analysis of the questionnaire data show that individual's level of identification with the organisation was associated with the likelihood of transmitting pro-environmental norms to co-workers. As part of the research process, Agent-based models were also constructed within the LOCAW project to simulate the effect of different policy mixes on large organisations. These models were empirically grounded with findings from questionnaires across the different case studies through the use of decision trees. One of the key question groups within the questionnaire that was particularly important in designing the agent-based models were those related to norm-transmission. We asked people to report how likely they would be to transmit environmental norms to co-workers and other people within the organisation. This paper will report on these findings, and will also explore the relationship between norm transmission and environmental behaviours more generally.

4. Testing policy options in an academic organization for a successful sustainability transition

The FP7 European Project LOCAW (LOwCArbon at Work) [ began conducting a thorough analysis to obtain a complex picture of the barriers and drivers to sustainable practices of different organizations at the present time using different methodologies (documental analysis, focus groups, in-depth interviews and questionnaire surveys). Besides, in order to construct knowledge on the necessary steps of transitioning to more sustainability organizations, back-casting sessions with personnel of different positions were done in LOCAW project. Backcasting is central for a strategic approach to planning for sustainable development. The methodology works by defining a desirable future and then works backwards to the present time in order to identify policies and programs that will connect the future to the present, assessing its feasibility. The information obtained in the back-casting scenario development workshops was used in defining policy tracks that were modeledusing an agent-based model approach. In particular, one of the organizations modeled was the University of A Coruña (UDC), which has a total of 2277 workers, between administration (790) and research/teaching (1487) personnel. In modeling UDC, agents represent workers with an individual value-based (altruistic, egoistic, hedonic, etc.) profile and their behavior is modeled using decision trees, automatically generated for each profile using actual data obtained by an online questionnaire that workers voluntarily fulfilled. Agents interact with each other in two ways: each agent has relations with his peers in the organization, which form the personal social network, and agents have also professional relations with subordinates/supervisors, and these form the organizational social network that is mostly of hierarchical type. In UDC personal network relations are very strong while hierarchical network influence in a more limited way in the actual behavior of the agents.

5. Structural and organizational factors influencing sustainability - related everyday practices in the workplace: comparative study Enel (Italy) vs. Aquatim (Romania)

This paper reports on a three year study from LOCAW research and we outline the general conclusions. In order to reach our particular aim – to provide a comprehensive analysis of the macro-factors influencing everyday practices and behaviors in the workplace, we investigated 6 European case studies of large-scale organizations operating under different national and international contexts and occupying different positions that are relevant in the sustainability debate. For this sympozium we will focus on the results of two comparative studies within the LOCAW project, Enel (Italy) and Aquatim (Romania) and we will reveal the multiple factors influencing the everyday practices and behaviors in these organizations. One of the most influential structural factor identified in our studies is the political-economic context in which the organization operates. The second influential structural factor identified in our studies is the legislation and regulation. The third influential structural factor identified in our studies is reputation. Findings from the LOCAW project demonstrate that the issue of reputation can act as both a driver and a barrier to the occurrence of sustainable practices. The building and maintaining of a good reputation is a key element of economic success on the market. Even if economic success is not a key concern of public institutions, reputation has still turned out, in our research, to be a key driver for sustainable practices.


6.Evidence from a Pilot Program of Energy Retrofits in a Large Commercial Building Portfolio

Organizations consume more than twice the energy of households (Prindle and Finlinson, 2011*). Many organizations are making a concerted effort to reduce energy use across their operations, tackling their facilities, supply chains, and employing management strategies that help to align energy consumption and production. However, there are numerous barriers to the reduction of energy use in organizations, especially in multi-tenanted commercial office buildings. These include diverse tenant needs and heterogeneous occupant preferences and behavior, and the need to balance cost containment, efficient operation and occupant well-being. This presentation draws upon empirical results of a detailed POE of a pilot program of energy efficient retrofits within a large commercial building portfolio in the US. This multi-method study includes interviews and surveys, collection of field measurements, utility bills and metered data, with the development of an agent-based behavioral model coded to an Energy Plus simulation of one of the pilot buildings. Key findings relate to the difficulty of installing lighting and HVAC technologies that are behaviorally robust within complex organizations, the mediating role of education and organizational learning, and the extent to which habits and occupancy schedules drive energy use outcomes. Indeed, the changing nature of work (in the US) wherein employees may split the “workday” between home, an office and a coffee shop suggests that an entirely new paradigm of “the office” is needed if workplaces are to become less intensive in their consumption of energy and other environmental resources.

7. Transitions to sustainable protein food consumption: the role of visions and niche development

Meat consumption is major source of unsustainability and transitions to lifestyles and diets building on vegetarianism, meat alternatives and strongly reduced meat consumption are strongly required. This paper reports on a backcasting experiment on meat alternatives and its effects after 10 years in the Netherlands. It has been found that the original participatory backcasting study successfully resulted in the development of a strong future vision in which by 2040 40% of all meat consumed would be substituted by meat alternatives based on vegetable and microbial sources, as well as in considerable stakeholder endorsement and stakeholder learning. In an evaluation study 10 years later it was found that niches of related activities could be found in the policy domain, research domain, business domain and public/societal domain. Both diffusion and further refinement of the vision had taken place in a co-evolutionary development with its supporting networks. The Leitbild concept from German sociology of technology is used to analyse the vision diffusion and shows that the vision provides both orientation and guidance to supporting networks, but that these networks co-shape the refinement of the vision too. Though a transition is not yet taking off, the related niches identified can be seen as a stepping stone for potential transition to a more sustainable consumption of protein foods

8. The role of Urban Multi-family Residential Buildings in Creating Sustainable Lifestyles

Knox (1991)* argues, “The built environment is both a product of, and the mediator between, social relations” (p. 182). Using that lens, buildings provide more than shelter; they create and enforce norms, and have the potential to drive social dynamics. Taking the building as the unit of analysis, this research investigates the possibility that there are underexplored group and organizational relationships among households in urban multi-family residential buildings, and that these organizational dynamics could be leveraged to change energy consumption behavior. Using survey and interview data from multiple buildings, household and building-wide electricity consumption data, and case studies of programmatic interventions in buildings, this research aims to identify organizational characteristics that may influence household energy behavior. This research is unique in its attempt to extend this line of thinking about organizations – typically applied in a commercial/institutional setting – to a residential context.

9. Sustainable lifestyles: A workplace and home behaviour-based cluster analysis on a cross-cultural sample of employees

The present work refers part of the results of the LOCAW EU 7FP research project. 487 employees from diverse organizations (both private and public) filled in a questionnaire including measures across an array of social-psychological, behavioural, and socio-demographic variables. A hierarchical cluster analysis was carried out on the basis of the employees’ responses to the behavioural items of the on-line questionnaire, concerning both work and home practices, which were used as classificatory variables. Results show the emergence of a distinct cluster whose composition is characterized above all by the presence of employees from Enel Green Power (a renewable Italy, about 40%) and Acquatim (Romania, about 28%), i.e. the two most explicitly “green” among the considered organizations (compared to two public organizations such as Groeningen Municipality and A Coruna University). Such cluster shows the highest scores for (pro-environmental) values, worldviews, identity, norms, and efficacy, whilst a congruent highest behavioural score appeared only for waste reduction at work, and, on the contrary, the consumption of energy (particularly at work) is higher than in the other clusters. In other words, it seems that these individuals - mainly employed in EGP and Acquatim - only partially translate their pro-environmental psychological drivers in coherent actions. This may be due to the possible existence of contextual and situational barriers which impede such psychological-behavioural consistency.

10. Temporal and spatial dimensions of sustainable lifestyles: a new research agenda

During the last decades accumulating scientific evidence has shown that our patterns of intensive resource use together with our GHG emissions are leading to increasing resource scarcity, loss of biodiversity and climate change with its numerous and disastrous effects. Lifestyles characterized by patterns of intensive consumption are a key challenge for sustainability objectives. Lifestyles are influenced by cultural, social, economic, political and technological factors and understanding the complex interactions among these factors as well as the most effective strategies for promoting significant changes in lifestyles is key to counteracting unsustainable trends that persist in several areas. The present paper will analyze different conceptualizations of lifestyles and the implications they have for research design and policy, emphasizing the main directions of this research agenda.