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In Search of Sustainable Behaviour: The Role of Core Values and Personality Traits

Abstract

Understanding the individual-level factors associated with sustainable behaviour in the workplace is important to advance corporate ethics and sustainability efforts. In two studies, we simultaneously assess the role of core values and personality traits in relation to a broad set of sustainability actions, both beneficial and harmful. Results from a student sample (N = 411) and then a national sample (N = 639) confirm that values and personality are distinct constructs that incrementally and differentially predict economic, social, and environmental outcomes. We successfully replicate previous findings pertaining to values and find that, controlling for values, the personality dimension of Honesty–Humility is the strongest negative predictor of harmful actions. Our analyses highlight the unique characteristics of values and personality and their distinct implications for ethical and sustainable management practice. By assessing values and personality together, we also contribute to more general efforts within psychology to develop an integrative view of the person.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We recognize that even our full models leave a sizeable amount of variance unexplained, though this is to be expected since values and personality are theoretically distal predictors of behaviour.

  2. 2.

    Our final sample did not differ significantly from the full sample in regards to age, sex, province of residence, or education. The final sample did have a slightly higher average income than the full sample (0.20 points on a seven-point scale, p<0.05). However, we have no reason to assume that this small difference in income would have changed the overall conclusions drawn from the smaller sample retained following our assessment of the careless response questions.

Abbreviations

FFM:

Five-factor model

SSI:

Survey sampling international

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Funding

This study was funded in part by a SSHRC Institutional Grant—York University (Project Number P2015-0361).

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Correspondence to Joel Marcus.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Marcus, J., Roy, J. In Search of Sustainable Behaviour: The Role of Core Values and Personality Traits. J Bus Ethics 158, 63–79 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3682-4

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Keywords

  • Sustainability
  • Values
  • Personality
  • HEXACO