Sustainability Values, Attitudes, and Behaviors: A Review of Multi-national and Global Trends

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 113

Anthony A. Leiserowitz, Robert W. Kates, and Thomas M. Parris
December 2004

A publication of CID's Science, Environment and Development Group


This review analyzes five efforts to define sustainability values, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Earth Charter, the UN Millennium Declaration, and the Global Scenario Group. It then summarizes empirical trends in sustainability values, attitudes, and behaviors, as measured by multi-national and global-scale surveys, related to human and economic development, the environment, and driving forces (population, affluence, technology, and entitlements). The review also summarizes empirical trends related to the values identified by the Millennium Declaration as essential to international relations (e.g., freedom and democracy, equality and shared responsibility), and broader contextual values (e.g., capitalism, globalization, institutional trust, and social change) that have sustainability implications. It then identifies several important attitude-behavior gaps and barriers. Finally this review draws several conclusions regarding future research needs and the value, attitude, and behavioral change needed to achieve sustainability.

Keywords: sustainable development, values, attitudes, behaviors, barriers, surveys, sustainability science, environment, population, affluence, poverty, technology, entitlements

JEL subject codes: I3, N50, O19, O33, Q01, Q51, Z13