|Submission Date||Feb. 28, 2019|
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
EN-6: Assessing Sustainability Culture
|1.00 / 1.00||
Academic Success and Community Service Coordinator
Does the institution conduct an assessment of sustainability culture (i.e. the assessment focuses on sustainability values, behaviors and beliefs, and may also address awareness of campus sustainability initiatives)?:
Which of the following best describes the cultural assessment? The assessment is administered to::
Which of the following best describes the structure of the cultural assessment? The assessment is administered::
A brief description of how and when the cultural assessment(s) were developed and/or adopted:
The sustainability culture assessment was developed by a graduate student at ESF as a component of the student’s Ph.D. dissertation research. The survey development included a review of STARS sustainability culture assessments at other institutions; a review of peer-reviewed academic literature on organizational culture, organizational climate, and sustainability behavior studies; and a conversation with AASHE’s Director of Programs in order to ensure that the framework of the sustainability culture assessment survey was consistent with the intent of the AASHE STARS credit. The cultural assessment survey is being administered at multiple campuses in New York State in order to compare the results across campuses. The sustainability culture assessment was adopted at ESF in order to measure attitudes and behaviors related to campus sustainability.
A copy or sample of the questions related to sustainability culture:
A sample of the questions related to sustainability culture or the website URL where the assessment tool is available:
The sustainability culture assessment included questions that measured sustainability-related behaviors on campus, perceptions of ESF’s sustainability efforts (organizational climate for sustainability), campus sustainability attitudes, and general sustainability attitudes. The culture assessment also utilized the Theory of Planned Behavior as a theoretical framework to measure attitudes toward sustainability behaviors on campus, social norms related to sustainability behaviors on campus, and perceived behavioral control related to sustainability behaviors on campus. Examples of the sustainability culture survey questions are below. All questions asked respondents to choose their level of agreement with each statement on a scale of 1 to 7 where 1 was "Strongly disagree" and 7 was "Strongly agree". Higher scores indicate higher levels of each construct (higher frequency of behaviors, stronger sustainability attitudes, etc.). The sustainability behavior questions included general sustainability behaviors (e.g. “I consider the impact my actions will have on sustainability issues while on campus”), energy behaviors (e.g. “I turn off lights when I leave an unoccupied room on campus when I can”), waste behaviors (e.g. “I recycle paper, plastic, and metal waste on campus when I can”), transportation behaviors (e.g. “I walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit to campus when I can”), and food choice behaviors (e.g. “I minimize my consumption of meat, dairy, and other animal products on campus when I can”).
The survey included questions related to perceptions of ESF’s sustainability efforts (organizational climate for sustainability) (e.g. “It seems to me that SUNY ESF is genuinely committed to sustainability on campus”), attitudes toward campus sustainability behaviors (e.g. “It’s easy to act in ways that improve campus sustainability with my everyday behavior”), social norms related to campus sustainability behaviors (e.g. “My friends at SUNY ESF act in ways that improve campus sustainability with their everyday behavior”), perceived behavioral control related to campus sustainability behaviors (e.g. “I have the ability to act in ways that improve campus sustainability with my everyday behavior”), and campus sustainability attitudes (e.g. “It’s important to me for SUNY ESF to be a leader in
sustainability”). The general sustainability attitude questions, which included ecological, economic, and social elements, were borrowed from Zwickle’s and Jones’ (2018) Sustainability Attitude Scale.
Zwickle, A., & Jones, K. (2018). Sustainability Knowledge and Attitudes—Assessing Latent Constructs. In Handbook of Sustainability and Social Science Research (pp. 435-451). Springer, Cham.
A brief description of how representative samples were reached (if applicable) and how the cultural assessment is administered:
The sustainability culture survey was emailed to all students and employees at ESF. Multiple reminders were sent to people who did not respond to earlier survey invitations. A sufficient number of respondents participated in the survey (n=515, 163 employees and 352 students) to achieve a 95% confidence level with a ±5% level of precision.
A brief summary of results from the cultural assessment, including a description of any measurable changes over time:
The results of the sustainability culture assessment described below include an analysis of data from the culture assessment conducted in Spring 2018. The results will be compared to future sustainability culture assessments in order to track changes over time. The results will also be compared to other campuses in New York State that are administering the same sustainability culture assessment, when that data becomes available.
The sustainability culture assessment indicated that students and employees have fairly high levels of self-reported sustainability-related behaviors (mean value of 5.66 on a 7-point scale). Waste reduction behaviors scored the highest of the behavioral categories (mean value of 6.27), followed by energy conservation behaviors (mean value of 5.82). Recycling was the highest single behavior, with a mean value of 6.51. Using a reusable mug or water bottle was the second highest scoring single behavior (mean value of 6.40) and minimizing waste was the third highest single behavior (mean value of 6.13). This demonstrates that the campus’s efforts to promote waste reduction and recycling have been successful.Food choice behaviors scored the lowest of the behavioral categories (mean value of 4.38) with eating a plant-based diet being the lowest scoring single behavior (mean value of 4.29) and eating local & organic foods (mean value of 4.46) being the second lowest single behavior. This indicates that more access to and promotion of plant-based, local, and organic foods could be beneficial for improving food-related sustainability behaviors on campus.
Alternative transportation behaviors were the third lowest behavior with a mean value of 5.18. Students (mean value of 5.80) reported statistically significant (p < 0.001) and substantially (η = 0.430) higher levels of alternative transportation behaviors compared to employees (mean value of 3.88), indicating that programs encouraging employees to walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit could potentially make improvements in this area.
Students (mean value of 5.21) had statistically significant (p < 0.01) higher levels of perceptions of SUNY ESF’s sustainability efforts (organizational climate for sustainability) compared with employees (mean value of 4.85), although the difference was minimal when considering the effect size (η = 0.146). This indicates that more outreach to employees about the College’s sustainability efforts could increase awareness among employees regarding SUNY ESF’s sustainability efforts.
Campus sustainability attitudes (mean value of 6.42) and Sustainability Attitude Scale (mean value of 6.26) scores were both high, which is consistent with the environmental focus of SUNY ESF. Similarly, the highest scoring subscale was the ecological sustainability attitudes subscale (mean value of 6.52) of the Sustainability Attitude Scale, indicating that the campus community has strong attitudes toward ecological sustainability.Students had statistically significant higher levels on all of the scales (behaviors, attitudes, social norms, perceived behavioral control, Sustainability Attitude Scale, and campus sustainability attitudes) compared with employees. The eta effect size values indicate that differences between students and employees were mostly minimal (η ≤ 0.188) on all scales except for social norms, where there was a substantial (η = 0.346) difference between students (mean value of 5.52) and employees (mean value of 4.70). This indicates that students perceive that people on campus are engaging in sustainability behaviors and that they believe they ought to engage in sustainability behaviors from the perspective of the campus community. This suggests that outreach efforts focused on communicating with employees about expectations regarding sustainability behaviors and the prevalence of sustainability behaviors on campus could increase social norms related to sustainability behaviors among employees.
The sustainability culture assessment demonstrates that there is a strong culture of sustainability at ESF. The assessment will be conducted in the future in order to track changes in behaviors, attitudes, social norms, and other aspects of sustainability culture over time.
The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission: