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EMAC 2021 Annual Conference

Extenuating Circumstances: Justifying Unsustainable Behavior

Published: May 25, 2021


Mark Cleveland, University of Western Ontario; Rabiya Siddiqui, University of Western Ontario


Addressing the long-standing attitude-behavior gap in pro-environmental contexts, this paper reports on a study of the justifications that consumers summon when explaining why they do or do not engage in sustainable behavior. We develop a scale for measuring the various internal and external justifications invoked by consumers. We then examine how the likelihood of each justification is a function of individual motivational values, and how these justifications in turn predict three categories of pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs). Largely confirming the hierarchy of attitudinal effects model, the more concrete justifications accounted for a larger proportion of the variance explained in PEBs, relative to motivational values.