UQ Business School PhD student examines environmental issues

27 May 2008
Research conducted by UQ Business School PhD candidate Sally Russell highlights the relationship between emotion and environmentally responsible behaviour in the workplace. Russell said she found that emotional responses to environmental issues were strong determinants of pro-environmental workplace practices. She said, "Personal values, as well as organisational values, influence whether the organisation is supportive of addressing environmental issues." She said her research departed from previous studies by directly examining the emotions leading to environmentally responsible behaviour rather than applying cognitive and behavioural theories. Russell conducted four extensive studies which explored the link between emotion and environmentally responsible behaviour and examined the role of specific emotions in driving behaviour and intentions. She said, "I measured green office behaviours and how individual and organisational values affected behaviour." "I found that positive emotions can enhance pro-environmental behaviour and negative emotions can impede it." "This actually went against the results of previous research." Russell said her third and fourth studies focused on the effect of discrete emotions, such as fear, hope, and sadness, in stimulating pro-environmental behaviour and intentions in two experimental studies. She said, "I showed people news reports about climate change and its impact on business; each of the reports were framed in different emotions." "I found that anger and fear affected behaviour while sadness was the only emotion that did not have a significant effect on behaviour." Russell was inspired to conduct her research by a 2002 trip to the Great Barrier Reef, near her birthplace in the Whitsunday Islands. "I was talking to my mum about my experience there and listening to her memories ... when I realised that the Reef has been negatively affected." "That is what spurred my interest in environmental management." She said her research provided hope that organisations could improve environmental change programs. Russell is currently working on the South East Queensland Urban Water Security Research Alliance, a partnership between The University of Queensland, the Queensland State Government, the CSIRO, and Griffith University.