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Between intention and action: psychosocial factors influencing action on climate change in organisations

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Abstract

Whilst global awareness of the importance and urgency of acting to mitigate climate change and its impacts is generally high, actual behaviour has matched neither the scale nor the complex nature of the challenge. Understanding why despite good intentions appropriate action is not forthcoming is critical if we wish to avoid catastrophic consequences for social justice and the wellbeing of humans and other species. Research gaining insight into underlying psychosocial processes has an important contribution to make in this regard, yet it tends to be overlooked.

This paper draws on an empirical interdisciplinary study enquiring into the experience of individuals acting to influence the organisation with regard to environmental decision-making. The study investigated psychosocial factors that may influence motivation, resilience and effectiveness, specifically psychological threat coping strategies, innate psychological needs, identity salience and ways of conceptualising experience.

Our study illuminates the complex nonlinear dynamics between these psychosocial forces, and reveals tensions in satisfying needs, and in the effectiveness of coping strategies such as suppressing ‘deep green’ identity, suppressing negative emotion about climate change, and in going into nature places.

The findings contribute nuanced insight to the body of knowledge about the dynamics of underlying psychosocial forces that influence approaches to climate change and other pro-environmental behaviours.