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How sustainable do you think you are?

How sustainable do you think you are?

Posted 24 April 2024 by Kevin Wood, Global Marketing

5 min

If you’re working with an organisation whose mission is to function more sustainably—perhaps they’re pursuing a net zero target, for example—then that organisation needs the will and the action of its people to achieve its objectives.

And, as with any other behavior-related initiative or goal, an understanding of personality type, preferences, and motivations can increase the chances of success.

New research into type and sustainability by The Myes-Briggs Company helps us share some key areas for practitioners, leaders, and organisations to consider—and pitfalls to avoid—when focusing on climate change initiatives in the workplace.

MBTI® type and sustainability

MBTI® type, attitudes to the environment, and sustainable organisations explores how the MBTI® model relates to pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors, and climate change skepticism and denial.

It also reveals how people view the pro-environmental credentials of their organisations and how this relates to personality type, job satisfaction and intention to leave.

This blog will focus on MBTI type-specific findings but first, here’s a broader point from the research:

The vast majority of respondents agree or strongly agree with statements like:

        • Life in the sea is being destroyed by plastics and microplastics (92%).
        • Human activity is contributing to climate change (86%).
        • People consume too many resources (89%).
        • The way we live now is not sustainable for the planet (82%).

This is good news for organisations that want to be greener. Everyone’s on the same page, right?

Not quite.

The research shows a gap between people’s beliefs about climate change and their actions about climate change.

For example, the most common non-environmentally friendly behaviors that were usually or always carried out by more than 20% of respondents were:

        • Using air travel for vacations.
        • Buying drinks in a disposable plastic bottle.
        • Being one of the first to turn on the air conditioning.

But the research also shows that a sizeable minority of respondents agree or strongly agree with statements such as:

          • Environmental legislation has gone too far and is restricting our freedom (17%).
          • Scientists have exaggerated the extent of climate change and global warming (16%).
          • I’m not convinced that climate change is real (13%).
          • There is no ‘climate emergency’, it’s all a big con (10%).

If there’s one thing this tells us, it’s not to make assumptions.

Pro-sustainability leaders can’t assume that everyone will follow or be committed to their goals. And leaders who don’t see sustainability as a business priority may well be in conflict with pro-sustainability employees, especially if those employees’ personal values are compromised.

Being inclusive and open to the possibility of different perspectives helps to prevent antagonism or negative conflict in an area where people may well have deep-set beliefs.

Fortunately, the MBTI model provides a framework for understanding difference and working positively with it. Here are some headline findings relating to MBTI preferences:

Personality type and pro-environmental attitudes

            • Individuals with NF preferences showed the highest level of pro-environmental attitude, and those with ST preferences the lowest.
            • ENFP, INFP, or INFJ types had the highest level of overall pro-environmental attitude.
            • ISTP or ESTP types had the lowest level of overall pro-environmental attitude.

Personality type and pro-environmental behaviors

                      • N or F preferences on average scored significantly higher on Recycling.
                      • F preferences on average scored significantly higher on Conserve energy.
                      • E, N, or F preferences on average scored significantly higher on Environmental activism.
                      • ISTJ were on average the lowest scorers on Ethical consumption.
                      • ENFJ, ENTJ, and ENFP scored the highest on Environmental activism.

Personality type and organisational sustainability

                                • ISFP preferences were the most likely to quit if they discovered that their organisation was significantly contributing to climate change.
                                • ISTP preferences were the least likely to quit if they discovered that their organisation was significantly contributing to climate change.

What does this mean for different MBTI types?

With information like this, it’s possible for practitioners to help organisations, leaders, and managers gain a more accurate picture of how different people and employees might be likely to behave. At the very least it confirms the diversity of preferences, attitudes, and behaviors on the topic of sustainability.

This means leaders can tailor their environmental messages and activities a little more.

Here are just three examples of findings and recommendations relating to favorite processes, taken from the full report.

                                                • Introverted Sensing (ISTJ and ISFJ) types are the least likely group to be environmental activists and the most likely to be climate change skeptics. How can organisations encourage such people to get involved? (e.g. avoid protests and demos. What experience and knowledge can they bring?)
                                                • Extraverted Sensing (ESTP and ESFP) types live in the moment and usually aren’t keen on planning. Such spontaneity can mean they don’t always do things in the most sustainable way. Given this information, could they flex to be better planned in small ways like always having a shopping bag ready to take to the supermarket?
                                                • Introverted Feeling (ISFP and INFP) types are the least likely to be climate skeptics and the most likely to travel in a sustainable way. Can they be encouraged to go to the next level?

MBTI type provides information on what people value and what matters to them, which helps leaders and managers get a better grip on what’s likely to motivate (or demotivate) their people.


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