Pro-environmental behaviour within tourism businesses in rural Scotland: the role of physical, social and individual context
Harcus, Stephanie Elizabeth
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Tackling climate change and other associated environmental problems has become a significant global issue. In order to tackle these challenges governments have introduced policy frameworks, legislation and laws to help mitigate their effects. The Scottish Government have invested in numerous programmes and initiatives to create and enhance a low carbon rural economy, and in order to do so successfully understanding behaviour is a vital component in achieving the aims of such policies and legislation. Rural businesses can play an important role in encouraging the uptake of pro-environmental behaviour and energy saving practices. However individuals within rural SME’s (small and medium sized enterprises) often encounter barriers which may prevent reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental objectives from being achieved. Therefore it is important to understand the influences associated with pro-environmental behaviour within the workplace, specific to the rural economy. This thesis aims to investigate the role of the physical, social and individual context in influencing individuals’ workplace pro-environmental behaviour. The thesis also aims to research the barriers, facilitators and motivations individuals experience during decision-making and action taken relating to issues such as recycling, waste management, energy efficiency, transport and procurement. Different employee levels within a variety of rural tourism businesses have been studied (e.g. employees, management, and business owners) utilising a mixed methodology consisting of focus groups and a questionnaire survey in order to enhance and validate the research. By doing so this study has managed to increase understanding of the views of employees, managers and business owners, who are crucial to the uptake of pro-environmental behaviour within the rural economy. A range of antecedents were identified from existing literature as having potential effects on pro-environmental behaviour, therefore a variety of these were thoroughly investigated. The results of the studies carried out herein show the importance of understanding workplace pro-environmental behaviour from the perspective of different contexts (physical, social and individual). With respect to the physical context, antecedents influencing individuals’ workplace pro-environmental behaviours include building infrastructure, business size and building location. Individuals expressed their businesses inability to be energy efficient due to poor building infrastructure, e.g. operating from an old rural building with inefficient roof and wall insulation, to no double glazing due to being in a listed building, thus letting heat escape. Furthermore, individuals discussed renting premises for their business, therefore have no control over structural decisions which affect energy efficiency. Business size was also mentioned as an important influence of behaviour in relation to the physical context, e.g. smaller businesses produce less turnover, and therefore are not in a financial position to upgrade heating systems, or utilise clean efficient technologies and materials which are perceived to be more expensive. With regard to business location, a high proportion of participants highlighted this as a barrier to undertaking pro-environmental behaviour, e.g. lack of public transport, recycling facilities and pick-ups for particular business materials, as well as not being able to procure goods for the workplace locally due to lack of availability. In terms of the social context, antecedents influencing individuals’ workplace pro-environmental behaviour included social norms. Individuals cite being influenced by professional relationships, e.g. neighbouring businesses, colleagues, customers and higher management (industry compliance), in addition to personal social relationships e.g. friends and family. Many business owners stated feeling responsible to behave pro-environmentally and were motivated to try and set a good example to other members of their workforce in order to increase participation and awareness. The study also highlighted the importance to strengthen an individual’s identification with their workplace, as results illustrated the more an individual strongly identified with their work, the more likely they were to engage in pro-environmental behaviour. Lastly with respect to the individual context, this refers to one’s personal circumstances, outlooks and attitudes specific to them as an individual. The thesis provides support that environmental identity and level of environmental activity (contingent to the workplace) were both influences of workplace pro-environmental behaviour. The study’s findings highlighted the more an individual strongly identified with the environment, the more likely they were to engage in pro-environmental behaviour at work. With respect to the level of environmental activity as an influence of workplace behaviour, results provided evidence that the more an individual was active (e.g. in green marketing, joining green schemes, holding/attending environmental meetings etc.), the more likely they were to engage in pro-environmental behaviour at work, thus illustrating the value of these practices. In conclusion, results from this research demonstrate the relationship between the physical, social and individual context when investigating the influences of workplace pro-environmental behaviour, and furthermore identify individuals’ personal motivations, barriers and facilitators. By doing so the thesis has been able to highlight what actions and procedures could potentially be implemented to increase sustainable tourism business practices in the transition to a low carbon rural economy. It is important to recognise individuals will perceive different barriers and retain motivations personal to them, therefore when business owners apply new environmental initiatives and goals, employees’ individual needs must be acknowledged to facilitate greater engagement. Workplace pro-environmental behaviour is complex and fairly under researched in comparison to investigating home-based pro-environmental behaviours. Therefore this study has added to the body of literature by highlighting the importance of different contexts (physical, social and individual) and has increased the understanding of what influences workplace pro-environmental behaviour specific to the rural tourism industry, which is vital to Scotland’s economy.