Influences on Student Intention and Behavior Toward Environmental Sustainability

Journal of Business Ethics 124 (3):465-484 (2014)
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As organizations place greater emphasis on environmental objectives, business educators must produce the next set of leaders who can champion corporate environmental sustainability initiatives. However, environmental sustainability represents a polarizing topic with some students dismissing its importance and legitimacy. Limited research exists to understand student behavioral influences on sustainability education, especially as it translates to environmental sustainability behavior in the workplace. This gap challenges our ability as educators to understand how to best teach environmental sustainability in order to reach diverse student mindsets. We apply the theory of planned behavior (TPB) to address this gap, investigating the influence of student attitudes, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control on environmental sustainability intention and behavior. A structural model tested with student survey data finds that student attitude represents the strongest influence on environmental sustainability intention. The model also validates that subjective norm affects sustainability intention with students considering professors along with business leaders and politicians as valid references for sustainability knowledge. To tie the results to effective educational interventions, we use the TPB to organize an extensive review of the sustainability pedagogy literature and identify specific teaching recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of environmental sustainability education.



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