March 19th, 2012

The Effects of Participative Goal Setting on Future Sustainability-Related Behaviors and Attitudes

By Tracy McDonald and Marc Siegall


A study was conducted using a modified participative goal setting approach to create a behavior change over the course of a semester. Two approaches to goal setting were used. Student subjects set goals regarding switching from one-time use plastic or paper bags to reusable bags when grocery shopping. They monitored their behavior on a weekly basis. We hypothesized that the participants would report: 1) an increase in the degree to which they used reusable bags on shopping trips, 2) being more committed to acting in an environmentally-responsible manner, 3) voluntarily adopting additional sustainability-related behaviors that are not required as part of the exercise, and 4) attempting to affect sustainability-related behavior in others. Additionally, the following research question was posed: Would any behavior change be accompanied by changes in attitudes towards sustainability? Results indicated that goal setting was effective in increasing the reported frequency of using reusable bags when shopping, though there was not significant change in attitudes. A more simplified approach was almost as effective as a more complex. If our results can be generalized, they suggest that managers can use a simplified goal setting technique to increase the frequency with which employees engage in sustainable behavior. Further, a change in attitude may not be necessary for this effect to occur.


Full PDF: McDonaldSiegallJSE2012



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