Time poor workers less likely to act on climate change concerns

Companies wanting to reduce their carbon footprint should look at ways to ease the stress and workload of employees, a study by Griffith University researchers has suggested.

The findings show that time does really matter when it comes to closing the value-action gap on climate change.

Two nation-wide surveys conducted by the researchers have revealed that time poor individuals who work longer hours tend to adopt less sustainable consumption practices.

The results suggest that measures to improve the work-life balance that will increase disposable time may foster both the adoption of more sustainable consumption practices as well as the emergence of pro-environment preferences.

The results are found in the paper What time to adapt? The role of discretionary time in sustaining the climate change value-action gap which is forthcoming in the journal of Ecological Economics.

Lead author Dr Andreas Chai (Griffith Business School)
Lead author Dr Andreas Chai (Griffith Business School)
Associate Professor Graham Bradley (School of Psychology)
Associate Professor Graham Bradley (School of Psychology)
Professor Joseph Reser (School of Phsychology)
Professor Joseph Reser (School of Phsychology)

Lead author Dr Andreas Chai said looking at time as a factor was a new way of understanding how people adapt to climate change, as it was commonly believed that money was a more significant factor in contributing to environmentally sustainable behavior.

“It is true that those with higher income tend to buy more environmentally friendly products. But higher income also reduces the tendency to engage in time-intensive conservation practices – such as recycling, turning unused lights off and conserving petrol,” he said.

“For many sustainable consumption practices, it’s more about how you use the goods rather than what you buy. This is where having more time really matters.

“Freeing up time can be an important way to achieve environmentally friendly behavior and address environmental problems. I would like to see companies looking at issues like this.”

Following a very successful four year psychology research program lead by Professor Joseph Reser and Associate Professor Graham Bradley, Dr Chai joined forces with the psychology team, in combining psychological and economic approaches to the problem of climate change.

“We initially found that while most people were concerned about climate change many weren’t taking action,” Associate Professor Bradley said.

“We wanted to look at what was driving the gap, as you would assume that if you were concerned about climate change you would act and if you weren’t then you wouldn’t, but that isn’t always the case.”

Professor Reser said while the overall finding was that Australian respondents evidenced a substantial amount of issue and behavioural engagement, life circumstances and available time still constituted important barriers to pro-environmental behaviour change.