This study aims to explore and develop new theories. These theories emerged from combining environmental psychology literature with sustainability literature and the five research questions at the core of the work built upon a central theme of sustainability that argues us and the organizations require a relationship of entwinement rather than separation and the language can reinforce or diminish the path to sustainable outcomes.
The study used an electronic questionnaire to explore five research questions. The study consisted of survey individuals from across the world on their connection with nature using the inclusion of nature in self scale (Schultz, 2002). An adaptation of this scale called the inclusion of environment in organization scale to understand individuals’ views of their organization and then three pairs of questions that had alternative phrasing within each pair.
In total, 632 respondents from across the globe responded to the survey. The results highlight that respondents consider their organization’s conceptual relationship with the environment as far from ideal for sustainable outcomes and that their organization is out of synch with them personally. Further, respondents believe that asking a question that emphasizes proximity and control such as “would I want to breathe this”? is more likely to yield sustainable outcomes than an alternative phrasing that does not emphasize proximity and control, phrasing such as “do the gaseous outputs meeting regulation requirements”?
Given the study was exploratory the number and range of respondents ensure the study has a perspective, that is useful to organizational leaders and academics in exploring new directions. However, at the same time given the exploratory nature of the work, more studies are required to understand the “why” of respondents’ choices and to more fully develop and understand the implications of a wider range of alternatively phrased questions (only three were tested) that emphasize proximity and control such as that shown earlier “would I want to breathe this”?
For organizational leaders, the research highlights that respondents view their organizations as being far from ideal in realizing sustainable outcomes, which, in turn, should be a spur to do more. Further, it indicates that simple phrasing that emphasizes proximity and control could be a tactic in helping an organization pursue sustainable strategies. For academics, the results of this study point us towards phraseology, as a key technique for helping drive organizational strategy towards sustainable outcomes.
See prior implications
The value of this work is that it combines environmental psychology with sustainability management and provides a foundation and confidence for scholars and practitioners to explore the potential of new theories and thus follow new lines of enquiry.
Barter, N. and Alston-Knox, C. (2020), "Sustainable outcomes: INS/IEO and the relevance of proximity and control to drive change", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-10-2018-0275Download as .RIS
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