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Despite the normative nature of sustainability, values and their role in sustainability transformations are often discussed in vague terms, and when concrete conceptualizations exist, they widely differ across fields of application. To provide guidance for navigating the complexity arising from the various conceptualizations and operationalization of values, here, we differentiate four general perspectives of how and where values are important for transformation related sustainability science. The first perspective, surfacing implicit values, revolves around critical reflection on normative assumptions in scientific practices. Sustainability transformations concern fundamental ethical questions and are unavoidably influenced by assumptions sustainability scientists hold in their interactions with society. The second perspective, negotiating values, is related to the values held by different actors in group decision processes. Developing and implementing solution options to sustainability problems requires multiple values to be accounted for in order to increase civic participation and social legitimacy. The third perspective, eliciting values, focuses on the ascription of values to particular objects or choices related to specific sustainability challenges, for example, valuations of nature. The fourth perspective, transforming through values, highlights the dynamic nature and transformational potential of values. Value change is complex but possible, and may generate systemic shifts in patterns of human behaviours. Explicit recognition of these four interconnected values perspectives can help sustainability scientists to: (1) move beyond general discussions implying that values matter; (2) gain an awareness of the positionality of one’s own values perspective when undertaking values related sustainability research; and (3) reflect on the operationalizations of values in different contexts.
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Sustainability Science
Values intransformational sustainability science: four perspectives
Andra‑IoanaHorcea‑Milcu1· DavidJ.Abson1· CristinaI.Apetrei1· IoanaAlexandraDuse1· RebeccaFreeth1·
MarajaRiechers1· DavidP.M.Lam1· ChristianDorninger1· DanielJ.Lang1
Received: 29 July 2018 / Accepted: 10 January 2019
© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019
Despite the normative nature of sustainability, values and their role in sustainability transformations are often discussed in
vague terms, and when concrete conceptualizations exist, they widely differ across fields of application. To provide guidance
for navigating the complexity arising from the various conceptualizations and operationalization of values, here, we dif-
ferentiate four general perspectives of how and where values are important for transformation related sustainability science.
The first perspective, surfacing implicit values, revolves around critical reflection on normative assumptions in scientific
practices. Sustainability transformations concern fundamental ethical questions and are unavoidably influenced by assump-
tions sustainability scientists hold in their interactions with society. The second perspective, negotiating values, is related to
the values held by different actors in group decision processes. Developing and implementing solution options to sustain-
ability problems requires multiple values to be accounted for in order to increase civic participation and social legitimacy.
The third perspective, eliciting values, focuses on the ascription of values to particular objects or choices related to specific
sustainability challenges, for example, valuations of nature. The fourth perspective, transforming through values, highlights
the dynamic nature and transformationalpotential of values. Value change is complex but possible, and may generate sys-
temic shifts in patterns of human behaviours. Explicit recognition of these four interconnected values perspectives can help
sustainability scientists to: (1) move beyond general discussions implying that values matter; (2) gain an awareness of the
positionality of one’s own values perspective when undertaking values related sustainability research; and (3) reflect on the
operationalizations of values in different contexts.
Keywords Sustainability transformation· Transdisciplinarity· Value negotiation· Eliciting values· Value shift
At its core, sustainability is a normative, value-based con-
cept. It is increasingly recognised that science dealing with
sustainability transformations has to engage with normative
and values related issues (Seidl etal. 2013). However, values
and their role are often discussed in elusive terms within
sustainability research. Given the interdisciplinary nature of
sustainability science, even when clear conceptualizations
exist, these differ widely across fields of application. There
is a diverse range of theoretical conceptualizations (for a
comprehensive overview, see Rawluk etal. 2019) related to
values: individual, shared, or social values; economic val-
ues; environmental and human values; held and assigned
values; intrinsic, instrumental or relational values; and tran-
scendental and contextual values (Dietz etal. 2005; Kenter
etal. 2015; Tadaki etal. 2017). This diversity reflects not
just different philosophical and scientific traditions, but also
the multiple ways in which the notion of value shape and
constrain our understanding of, and action, in the world.
However, these diverse understandings of value seem to
exist in relative isolation from each other. In contrast to the
theoretical richness, there is less scientific discussion on how
values should, or could, be operationalized in relation with
Theoretical traditions insocial values forsustainability
Handled by: Christopher M. Raymond, Swedish University of
Agricultural Sciences, Sweden.
* Andra-Ioana Horcea-Milcu
1 Faculty ofSustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg,
Lüneburg, Germany
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transformation-oriented sustainability science. Partly, this
lack of discussion may be because ‘values’ are a challeng-
ing research object, given their multifaceted nature and the
difficulties in defining, eliciting, or measuring values in the
context of transformational change.
How can the necessarily value-laden field of sustain-
ability science navigate the diversity of perspectives to con-
ceptualising and operationalizing values in relation with
transformational change? Here, we suggest that a useful
starting point is to consider the ways values are studied or
operationalized in transformational sustainability science.
To this end, we organise this paper around four perspectives
of how and where values are engaged within transformation-
oriented sustainability science, where by ‘perspective’, we
mean a tradition of shared enquiry and practice. Each per-
spective is bounded by shared broad conceptualizations of,
and research approaches to, values in relation with transfor-
mational change. In describing such perspectives, our inten-
tion is not to provide a definitive typology or framework for
considering values in sustainability science. Rather, we wish
to surface the multiple roles values are thought of as having,
and to encourage a more systematic and explicit considera-
tion of their interactions and importance in investigating and
seeking transformational change towards sustainability.
As previously noted, a large number of different values
typologies exist in the academic literature. Here, we focus
on transcendental and contextual values, as they seem
particularly apt in the context of how values are engaged
within sustainability science. We acknowledge that this
provides a particular lens through which to view the four
values perspectives that we develop, but note that this is
a necessary constraint of any discussion of values in sus-
tainability science. Following Kenter etal. (2015), we dif-
ferentiate between: (1) transcendental values—referred
to by Brown (1984) as held, first-order preferences—that
transcend specific situations and guide selection or evalu-
ation of behaviour and events and (2) contextual values—
ascribed, second-order preferences—that relate to the worth
or importance of a particular object, choice, or state of the
world. Unless mentioned otherwise, in this paper, we focus
on transcendental values defined as “concepts […] that per-
tain to desirable end states or behaviours, transcend specific
situations, guide selection, or evaluation of behaviour and
events, and are ordered by relative importance” (Schwartz
1992:4; 2012), in agreement with the Transcendental val-
ues concept in the overview of value concepts provided by
Rawluk etal. (2019).
Within the broad class of transcendental values, dif-
ferent typologies exist, each with different dimensions to
discriminate between values. For example, in his seminal
work, Schwartz (2012) distinguishes between ten motiva-
tional types of values recognised across cultures. Alternative
typologies differentiate between values operating at various
levels: from individual to collective (e.g., social and cul-
tural values). This paper focuses on social values, rather than
individual values, where social values refer to the outcome
of social processes of deliberation about transcendental
values (see also Kenter etal. 2015; Rawluk etal. 2019).
We make this distinction between individual and social val-
ues, because the practice of sustainability and sustainability
science are inherently social processes involving the nego-
tiation of values among different stakeholders, shaped by
institutional (including institutions of science) norms. We
also make a distinction between social and cultural values;
while both operate at supra-individual level, cultural values
are less abstract than social values (Rawluk etal. 2019) and
more dependent on the local context (Van Riper etal. 2019)
rather than on the outcomes of deliberative social processes.
The four values perspectives in sustainability science we
describe in more detail below are:
The surfacing implicit values perspective, which revolves
around the often unexpressed and unacknowledged values
that sustainability science embeds within transformational
research. This perspective questions how such underpin-
ning transcendental values shape and constrain insights
and solution opportunity spaces in sustainability science.
The negotiating values perspective relates to the plurality
of transcendental and contextual social values that interact
in transformational processes. This perspective asks ques-
tions related to whose values count, and how such values are
accommodated in, and shape, the outcomes of participatory
and group decision processes. The eliciting values perspec-
tive looks at the explicit articulation of transcendental values
as revealed in contextual value judgments such as ascrib-
ing values to particular choices, objects, or actions related
to specific sustainability challenges and potential changes
in the state of the world. This perspective asks questions
regarding which values are ascribed, and how these values
are elicited to inform decision-making and management pro-
cesses. The transforming through values perspective engages
with questions related to values as intervention points for
transformational changes towards sustainability, arguing
that the latter require systemic shifts in deeply held values
(Table1, Fig.1). For each of these perspectives, we focus
on: (1) a general description of the perspective and the way
in which values are engaged with; (2) the relevance of the
perspective for sustainability science; (3) the identification
and importance of under-considered aspects of the perspec-
tive; and (4) a practical suggestion for how each perspective
could be considered in sustainability science. To illustrate
the perspectives, especially point (4) above, we present
examples based on a single research project called ‘Lever-
age Points for Sustainability Transformation’ (Abson etal.
2017). The project is a transdisciplinary endeavour aiming to
explore system characteristics, where interventions can lead
to transformational as opposed to incremental changes in the
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system as a whole. Two empirical examples are drawn from
the iterative engagement and experiences of the approxi-
mately 25 interdisciplinary scientists working in the project
(Tables2, 3).
Perspective 1: Surfacing implicit values
The surfacing implicit values perspective is about
the underpinning assumptions and norms shaping
Table 1 Summary of the four proposed values perspectives for sustainability transformation
Main focus of operationali-
Main question (How?) Context of operationalization
Surfacing implicit values Surfacing implicit values How do underpinning values
shape insights and solu-
tion opportunity spaces in
sustainability science?
Research models and prac-
Negotiating values Navigating the plurality of
Whose values count, and
how do such values shape
the outcomes of participa-
tory processes?
Facilitating group decision-
making and policy
Participatory pro-
cesses involving
multiple actors
Eliciting values Eliciting values ascribed to
particular objects or states
of the world
Which values, and how
values are elicited to
inform decision-making
Informing decision-making
and management processes
Ascribing values
processes (valua-
tion exercises)
Transforming through values Leveraging values for chang-
ing states of the world
How can values serve as
intervention points for
facilitating transforma-
Transformationalprocesses Systemic value shift
Fig. 1 Distilling the complexity of values concepts within trans-
formational sustainability science in four perspectives. This visual
analogy represents a heuristic that does not imply a linear progres-
sion or a hierarchy of elements of process. (Perspective 1) Surfacing
implicit values: how values inform (scientific) understandings of how
the world is. (Perspective 2) Negotiating values: whose values count
in assessing states of the world. (Perspective 3) Eliciting values: how
we elicit values ascribed to different states of the world. (Perspective
4) Transforming through values: using values as levers for chang-
ing states of the world. The four closely interrelated perspectives
have different degrees of depth in undertaking value enquiries, or
ultimately values related interventions, hence the rationale for using
stacking elements for their visual representation
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sustainability research. Sustainability is a normative con-
cept with a vast array of overlapping and diverging under-
standings, theories, and narratives regarding its mean-
ing (Schmieg etal. 2017). For example, the concept of
sustainability appears to be more strongly derived from
the Western culture rather than indigenous cultures (Van
Kerkhoff and Lebel 2015; Sacks 2018). In turn, sustain-
ability science is an unavoidably value-laden endeavour
not only because of the mere notion it addresses, but also
due to the values underpinning scientific understandings
of the world and scientific institutions.
In addition to the way in which ontological assumptions
about the nature of reality shape scientific enquiry (e.g.,
Blaikie 2008), scientists hold pre-analytic visions (Schum-
peter 1954) thatunderpin and shape scientific models and
research practices. Such pre-analytic visions are largely
formed based on transcendental values, and relate to themes
such as how we judge different states of the world, notions
of progress and what we conceptualise as ‘good’. For exam-
ple, the notion of efficiency (defined as non-wastefulness)
is a primary, normative measure by which resource alloca-
tion is judged. However, this value judgement underpinning
economic thought potentially conflicts with the normative
notion of ecological resilience premised on ideas of redun-
dancy. The underlying transcendental values (for efficiency
or resilience) fundamentally shape judgements about the
sustainability of a particular system or even how such
systems are defined and studied. Moreover, the inherently
interdisciplinary sustainability science is embedded in an
organisation of science shaped by ontological, epistemic and
normative assumptions, as well as institutional and power
structures (e.g., Fazey etal. 2018). Assumptions of scientific
models are also institutionalised and reinforced via scientific
traditions and disciplines (e.g., Raymond etal. 2010); thus,
transcendental values create powerful, constraining, and
rarely questioned narratives in the sciences.
Being aware of, and making transparent, the assumptions
of the current epistemological and ontological models of
the world may seem an ambitious task (Miller etal. 2014).
However, ignoring them limits the opportunity space of
sustainability science by reducing epistemological agility,
or perpetuating false confounding or fragmented ontologi-
cal meanings. Being more critical and reflective upon the
process of theorising and conducting research requires that
the transcendental values shaping the research processes
and scientific institutions (such as the demand for ‘global
relevance’ in research findings) are justified and made
explicit (Jerneck etal. 2011; Spangenberg 2011). Studies
that observe, or critically reflect on research practices are
increasing (Wuelser and Pohl 2016). For example, making
explicit the normative assumptions and goals associated
with ecosystem services research has been suggested as a
means of harnessing its transformational potential (Abson
etal. 2014).
Ultimately, the challenge of sustainability science is to
co-produce actionable knowledge for intervening on sus-
tainability problems in a way that permits a plurality of val-
ues and perspectives to co-exist (Miller 2013). Therefore,
especially within scientific research practices, surfacing
and acknowledging the underpinning assumptions (or pre-
analytic visions) of scientists are a vital first step. Transdisci-
plinary research practice characterised by actively involving
actors outside academia provides a useful avenue for more
explicit reflection on the constraining and enabling roles of
underpinning transcendental values in sustainability science
and transformational change (Popa etal. 2014). Starting with
Table 2 Example of engaging with Perspective 1 (Surfacing implicit values) within the Leverage Points project
The Leverage Points project has a formative accompanying research (FAR) work package, to study the experience of working together
The FAR work has sought to make implicit values visible to the team so that these are available for discussion. In sustainability, researchers
may assume that their colleagues share the same underlying assumptions and norms. This can cause confusion when colleagues’ research
priorities or practices diverge from their own, or from stated project objectives.
To surface implicit values early on in the project, the FAR researcher did two things. First, she interviewed team members about the value of
sustainability to them personally. She presented the team with headline results of these interviews so that all members were more aware of
the range of implicit values, instead of blindly assuming homogeneity.
The interviews indicated:
(a) A range of personal priorities
E.g. Sustainability is annoyingly central in my life; I can tie myself in knots worrying about it
E.g. Certain physical comforts are important to me and I won’t give them up, even for reasons of sustainability
(b) A range of assumptions about what it means to lead a sustainable life
E.g. I no longer have a car, just a bicycle
E.g. For me, sustainability is less about riding a bicycle instead of a car. It’s about being kind, having empathy, or taking responsibility for
someone in trouble
Second, the FAR researcher facilitated an exercise to make team members’ epistemological assumptions and research practices more appar-
ent to each other. During this exercise, the team explored assumptions about what would constitute success in the project. This generated 14
success criteria. Members of the team mapped the degree of convergence or divergence in their responses to these criteria, which included
realising individual achievements and pursuing collective achievements. While unstated individual and collective ambitions could appear to
be in conflict, surfacing their implicit underlying values makes it more possible to discuss different priorities and find overlapping values.
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problem framing, and going through all the main phases of
the conceptual model of a transdisciplinary process (Lang
etal. 2012), sustainability scientists make choices. Com-
pared to research traditions where the values and norms
shaping research are not explicitly discussed, in the case of
transdisciplinarity, an essential role is played by a continu-
ous dialogue and exchange between people from both scien-
tific and societal bodies of knowledge. Sustainability prob-
lems are identified and bounded in value-explicit ways, as is
the co-production and application of co-created knowledge
(Ruppert-Winkel etal. 2015). Transdisciplinary research,
and to a lesser extent interdisciplinary research, uses meth-
odologies for eliciting and integrating the knowledge, goals,
values, and norms of research participants, and translating
them in the research design (e.g., Lang etal. 2012). Hence,
by surfacing the tacit knowledge and the assumptions of
diverse scientific backgrounds, transdisciplinary approaches
allow generated knowledge to reflect multiple value systems
in an integrated manner (Tschakert etal. 2016).
Value-laden assumptions within sustainability science
often become less transparent when moving from abstract
discussions (e.g., “What are the underpinning normative
assumptions in ecosystem service research?”) to concrete
sustainability research projects (e.g., “How do we assess
ecosystem services in this context?”) (Fig.1). Here, we
argue that exploring the values underpinning and shap-
ing individual research questions or projectsis potentially
fruitful for ensuring pluralistic problem framing and solu-
tion spaces. Particularly, in the case of science dealing with
managing change, it is essential that researchers are aware
of their own set of values, and their intended and possi-
ble role(s) as researchers (Wittmayer and Schäpke 2014),
while explicitly providing time and space for self-reflection
(Raymond etal. 2010). Such reflection gives researchers
an inner-oriented understanding of reality. This under-con-
sidered aspect of sustainability science chimes with recent
developments pointing to the importance of subjectivity and
personal dimensions—the deep inner side—of sustainability
transformation (Page etal. 2016; Fazey etal. 2018; Parodi
and Tamm 2018) and goes back to the personal and tacit
dimensions of knowledge of Michael Polanyi (1958) (see
also Perspective 4).
Questions such as: “What are the normative assumptions
that I bring to the research that I am carrying out?” and
“How does this influence my choices about methodological
and conceptual approaches?” are often overlooked, but espe-
cially important in the case of inter- and transdisciplinary
sustainability research, where the lack of transparency can
hinder or even undermine its results. As a practical start-
ing point for Perspective 1, researchers may refer to the dif-
ferent continua of ontological, epistemological, and philo-
sophical perspectives provided by the literature, for example,
from an objectivist to a subjectivist approach (e.g., Moon
and Blackman 2014; Raymond etal. 2014). Rawluk etal.
(2019) also present a framework for mapping value con-
cepts across ontology and epistemology, as well as different
levels of abstractness and context dependency. These prox-
ies for normative and value positions matter because they
influence how sustainability science is conducted (choice
of method, analysis, interpretation, and application) and the
legitimacy of its outcomes. Tackling the above under-rep-
resented aspects and mapping how scientists through their
positionalities build meaning and understand the world adds
the needed nuance and transparency to the field of sustain-
ability science (Jerneck etal. 2011, see also Table2 for how
we applied Perspective 1 to an ongoing research project).
Finally, giving explicit consideration to value judgements
that underpin scientific endeavours supports moving away
from decision-making based solely on supposedly objective
scientific information.
Perspective 2: Negotiating values
While Perspective 1 is concerned with the implicit values
that scientists bring to transformational research, Perspec-
tive 2 focuses on the plurality of values that actors bring
to participatory and group decision-making processes. This
perspective asks questions around whose values count, how
they are included, and how they shape participatory pro-
cesses in sustainability science. Participatory approaches
that seek to include values held by different actors generally
enhance a solution orientation and the feasibility of sustain-
ability interventions (Wiek etal. 2014). Solution strategies
for sustainability problems require values to be expressed
and understood during decision-making. Accounting for
values, managing conflicts, and reconciling plural values
builds civic participation and social legitimacy for the pro-
posed transformational processes. This must be done at vari-
ous scales of participation and by trading-off participants’
views in the light of power relations (Bennett etal. 2015;
Van Kerkhoff and Lebel 2015). Much of the focus in sustain-
ability science has been on ensuring that all relevant stake-
holders are included in participatory processes, where they
are able to express their values (e.g., Leventon etal. 2016;
Newig and Fritsch 2009). However, there is less focus in
Perspective 2 on how the values of multiple stakeholders are
negotiated in created shared positions or policies regarding
specific sustainability challenges or contexts. We illustrate
this under-represented element of the negotiating values
perspective via the conceptual framework of Institutional
Analysis and Development, IAD (Ostrom 2011).
The IAD framework (Ostrom 2011) provides a useful
heuristic for understanding how social values are negotiated
in group decision-making processes. It mentions different
structural variables of existing institutional arrangements
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that constrain and influence the outcomes of such decisions.
This framework does not directly articulate the value sys-
tems of actors, but rather focuses on actors’ influence on
policy outcomes and how well these outcomes fit their inter-
ests. After defining a policy problem, the focus of the IAD
analysis moves to behavioural aspects in the action arena, as
influenced by the context (biophysical conditions, attributes
of the community, and rules in use). The ‘action’ refers to
those behaviours to which the acting individual or group
attaches a subjective and instrumental meaning (Kiser and
Ostrom 1982). As such, some of the operational concerns
in this framework include the ways in which actors assign
value to their resources, how their information, beliefs, and
institutional constraints shape these valuations (see also Per-
spective 3), and which internal mechanisms they use to ulti-
mately decide upon strategies (Ostrom and Cox 2010). The
influence of contextual factors on the action situation could
bring forward the idea of changing values deeply embedded
in the socio-cultural context (Perspective 4).
Scholars use approaches such as the IAD to focus on
negotiating values. This helps to identify the different nor-
mative rules and social values that determine change indeci-
sion-making strategies. However, the origin of the actors’
individual values, which shape their original positions, is
often ignored or under-considered. This is also evident in the
fact that the discussion about conflicts across transcendental
values is relatively neglected. More work is dedicated to
reconciling contextual values tied to a specific sustainability
challenge, action, or intervention (Kenter etal. 2016). With
this caveat in mind, insights from social psychology theories
of behaviour, e.g., Stern’s (2000) value–belief–norm model,
might be beneficial in developing tools for surfacing tran-
scendental values in the incipient phases of participatory
processes. This in turn might allow for a more open and
transparent negotiation of the values and beliefs that shape
collaboration, as well as for the development of shared goals
in relation with transformational change.
Perspective 3: Eliciting values
Perspective 2 focuses on how transcendental values shape
the outcomes of decision processes within opportunity
spaces bounded by sustainability science and its underpin-
ning assumptions (Perspective 1). In contrast, the eliciting
values perspective engages with how contextual values
can be elicited and aggregated to judge particular choices,
objects, or actions related to specific sustainability chal-
lenges. This perspective asks questions about which ascribed
values and associated valuation processes are used to inform
decision-making and management processes: how we elicit
social values related to potential changes in the state of the
world, and how the types of elicited values and the methods
for their assessment influence research outcomes and con-
sequently decision-making processes. This perspective
includes ethical discussions regarding the appropriateness
of monetary and non-monetary valuations of changing states
of the world (e.g., Gowdy 1997), along with more techni-
cal discussion regarding explicit valuation frameworks such
as cost–benefit analysis (e.g., Wegner and Pascual 2011).
While we use the example of value elicitation in relation
with nature and biodiversity to illustrate this perspective,
we argue that contextual values elicited in other fields,
such as Likert scale style elicitations in environmental psy-
chology and other social science disciplines, are similarly
Many disciplines devote immense effort to trying to cat-
egorise and assess the various values assigned to nature
(Turner etal. 2003). However, most valuations of nature or
landscapes fall into the realm of quantitative assessments,
often with monetary assessments focusing on a subset of
ascribed values that can easily be measured. Led in part
by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB
2010), quantification of environmental values or of benefits
people derive from nature were encouraged to be compatible
with other quantitative metrics used for decision-making,
particularly economic ones (Gómez-Baggethun etal. 2010;
Norgaard 2010). The basis for economic valuations is postu-
lations within welfare economic theory, where it is believed
that changes in human well-being can be measured in terms
of utility expressed in exchange value. Consequently, whole
socio-cultural contexts are reduced through quantitative
assessments to monetary values, reinforcing the mainstream-
ing of economic rationales for valuation. For example, emo-
tional attachment to nature or the whole spectrum of values
assigned to (cultural) ecosystem services are not captured by
many mainstream valuation processes, and are not translated
in the values associated to potential changes in the state of
the world (Milcu etal. 2013).
Using the restrictive language of economics to elicit con-
textual values related to changing states of the world can
silence the voices of those expressing less anthropocentric
values and preferences, such as ecosystem dependent com-
munities, indigenous peoples or nature itself. Consequently,
authors working in the field of ecosystem services have long
argued that acknowledging and identifying the plurality of
values that lie beyond monetary or even instrumental ones
(e.g., Kumar and Kumar 2008; Pascual etal. 2017; Arias-
Arévalo etal. 2018) is key to advancing towards sustainabil-
ity transformation. While the hegemony of economics logic
and its consequences in terms of contextual values and valu-
ation methods of choice is recognised and criticised (e.g.,
Gómez-Baggethun etal. 2010; Abson and Termansen 2011),
the deeply ingrained paradigm underpinning such valuation
methods, that of control and subordination of nature is less
talked about. Consequently, the majority of the available
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valuation methods elicit values from the perspective of
the current, arguably unsustainable economic system, not
from the perspective of a desired state of the economic sys-
tem (Norgaard 2010). Hence, similar to Perspective 1, one
under-represented, yet relevant, aspect of this perspective
consists ofthe inherent political and normative assumptions
of methods and methodologies used to investigate values,
and the relationship between the evaluating agent, the eval-
uated object or state, and the method used for valuation.
As a response, scholars who argue for their transparency
also call for valuation methods that are co-created. These
are expected to help surface pluralistic, enacted contextual
social values tightly linked with historic developments, local
landscapes and cultural environments through which such
values arise (Gunton etal. 2017). Moreover, such integra-
tive valuation approaches allowing the expression of value
plurality are more congruent with the multiple meanings
of human well-being, of a good quality of life, and with
concerns for the well-being of other beings. The movement
that is rising in response to this under-recognised aspect and
that is demanding the acceptance of multiple worldviews
and associated values of nature has consolidated around,
for example, a number of international science–policy plat-
forms such as IPBES (2015) in its notion of nature’s ben-
efits to people and related approaches (Christie etal. 2019b).
Another recent milestone in the extension of rationales for
attributing value to nature beyond intrinsic and instrumen-
tal values is the introduction of relational values derived
from all-encompassing human–nature relationships (Pascual
etal. 2017). However, these movements also encounter chal-
lenging value conflicts associated with the different ways of
eliciting values. Hence, we recognise that no form of value
elicitation (or integration) can be presented as a panacea;
rather, we need complementary approaches. Synergistic ben-
efits should emerge from their co-existence and plurality (see
also Perspective 2).
Another under-considered aspect of Perspective 3 stems
from making explicit the dichotomy between transcenden-
tal and contextual values (Kenter etal. 2015). There is less
research on the elicitation of transcendental (or first-order/
held) values (Brown 1984), and on how such values influ-
ence second-order preferences/contextual values (Abson and
Termansen 2011). Underlying transcendental values held by
individuals are more difficult to aggregate to provide social
values, than are second-order ascribed values that flow
from them (Brown 1984). However, changes to transcen-
dental values hold the greatest transformational potential as
strong motivational driver that can explain human behaviour
(Abson etal. 2017, Perspective 4). We suggest that delibera-
tive valuation methods, co-produced through more transdis-
ciplinary approaches, are potential ways to capture a broader
range of values of nature (Raymond etal. 2014). Such meth-
ods also provide a means of eliciting explicit contextual
social values related to specific states of the world that can
also actively incorporate the exploration of transcendental
social values (see also Perspective 4).
Perspective 4: Transforming throughvalues
The first three values perspectives are based on surfacing,
navigating, and eliciting existing social values related to
sustainability transformations with the premise that better
understanding such values can help foster desired societal
change. In contrast, the transforming through values per-
spective engages with questions around interventions for
activating (Raymond and Raymond 2019), nurturing, or
shifting transcendental values as a means of facilitating
transformational societal changes. The rationale is that tran-
scendental values underpin individual behaviours and, at a
collective level, the societal paradigms from which institu-
tions, rules, and norms emerge. As such, this perspective
adopts a complex system approach, with individuals at the
same time being shaped by the system they are part of, and
having the agency to shift (together with others) the goals of
that system (Hausknost etal. 2016; Sacks 2018).
This perspective takes an interventionist stance: it
assumes a certain degree of control of humans over their
context, maintaining that people are able to reflect on and
break through the structures that constrain them, as well
as to take collective action for changing those structures.
This perspective links values to notions such as triple-loop
learning, which argues that outcomes of decision-making
may not only improve practices (single-loop), but also lead
to changes in the assumptions and values driving those
practices (double-loop), and ultimately in the norms and
broader context shaping the latter (triple-loop) (Armitage
etal. 2008). Social learning is a closely related concept,
as it emphasises, in certain conceptualizations, a change
in understanding that is situated at wider social units than
the individual and which takes place as a result of social
interactions (Reed etal. 2010). The claim is that by creat-
ing shared spaces for joint deliberation and reflection, it is
possible to influence a critical mass of people towards mak-
ing decisions that benefit society. Participation processes,
thus, become more than opportunities for negotiating values
within a determinate action situation (Ostrom 2011), but are
instances of broader and iterative societal engagement that
can lead to changes in biophysical conditions, the attributes
of the communities and the rules in use, i.e., can alter the
context sensu IAD (see also Perspective 2). Horcea-Milcu
etal. (2017), for instance, illustrate how shared transcenden-
tal values co-evolve in slow processes over time, and how
central such processes are for ensuring the resilience of a
cultural landscape.
Sustainability Science
1 3
Adherents to the transforming through values perspec-
tive also highlight the dynamic nature of values, with some
explicitly linking societal learning processes to changes
at the individual level. Van Riper etal. (2019) present a
multi-level model of value shift through social learning
and emphasise how individual and cultural values inform
each other. Which conceptualization of values is employed
matters a great deal in upholding such claims, with contex-
tual values being seen as more malleable than transcenden-
tal ones (Kenter etal. 2015). Transcendental values appear
to be both relatively slow to change and relatively stable
(Ives and Kendal 2014; Fischer etal. 2012) compared
to attitudes (i.e., an expression of contextual values), so
processes of participatory group learning might be more
likely to only trigger shifts in contextual values. Some
authors also talk about such processes in terms of “value
activation”, suggesting that different contexts may awaken
or bring forward different values, which consequently
play a role in filtering information and setting goals (Ver-
planken etal. 2009). However, there is some recent empiri-
cal evidence that deliberative processes can also lead to
more fundamental changes of values, i.e., target transcen-
dental values (e.g., Raymond and Kenter 2016), although
it is unclear whether such changes are lasting or not. To
the extent to which transcendental values are regarded as
the underlying canvas of behaviours—e.g., according to
theories such as the value–belief–norm model by Stern
(2000) or the behaviours–attitudes–values cognitive hier-
archy model adapted from Fulton etal. (1996)—individual
value change has potential to function as an intervention
point for sustainability transformations. For example,
Christie etal. (2019a) mention the notion of “ecologi-
cal conversion”, as a personal change of transcendental
values towards sustainability. An open question remains,
though, about which values support sustainable outcomes,
how those values (and not others) can be activated, and by
whom (Miller etal. 2014)? A potential answer comes from
positive psychology which strives to activate pre-existent
but hitherto not enacted desirable values (Raymond and
Raymond 2019).
Following from this, one important partly under-consid-
ered aspect of Perspective 4 is that, at least in democratic
societies, a critical mass of individual value change must be
achieved to lead to visible changes in societal outcomes. As
such, discussions often bleed into those of paradigms and
dominant worldviews. For instance, some scholars adhering
to the transforming through values perspective challenge the
global paradigm of economic growth (D’Alisa etal. 2014),
by calling for more reflexivity on the values underpinning
it and for re-evaluating the goals that the economic system
should serve (see also Perspective 3). While it may be possi-
ble to shift one’s values (via e.g., deliberative processes) and
trigger new individual behaviours, by which mechanisms
would such shifts amount to widespread paradigm change
at the level of an entire society?
One answer would point again to the link between indi-
vidual and cultural values (van Riper etal. 2019). However,
a second under-considered aspect of Perspective 4 is the
claim of some scholars that it is not possible to influence
the direction of a culture by changing individuals’ values
one at a time. Manfredo etal. (2017a, p. 775) maintain that
values are “deeply entangled in a web of material culture,
collective behaviours, traditions, and social institutions”, and
they are shaped by the context. As such, lasting value change
is very slow and it is a consequence of other changes in the
environment, as it follows from new behaviours, rather than
precedes them (also see Manfredo etal. 2017b). In criticis-
ing the pretention of deliberate change that Perspective 4
inherently invokes, these authors plead instead for a focus
on attitude, norm, and behaviour change in specific contexts
(Manfredo etal. 2017a). Theorists of transition experiments
(van den Bosch and Rotmans 2008) and transition initiatives
(Gorissen etal. 2018) provide some insights into how phe-
nomena that start out in niches might scale up to the level
of an entire society by giving special attention to reflec-
tive learning, interaction, and experimentation at the level
of society (see also McAlpine etal. 2015). As a result of
such experiments, finding out whether values or behaviours
should change first may amount to the chicken-and-the-egg
question. The important effect is a shift in the dominant
paradigm, i.e., a transformation. Within this context, indi-
vidual agency and empowerment appear to play an important
role, and the values underpinning personal action are part of
the story (Westley etal. 2017). Along these lines, O’Brien
(2018) considers the personal sphere of transformation,
while Kendal and Raymond (2019) mention the influence of
socio-psychological processes on the pathway of individual
change for values shift.
This leads to a third under-considered aspect of Perspec-
tive 4, which pertains to the notion of personal sustainability
(Parodi and Tamm 2018), and the relationship with one-
self (Sacks 2018). Especially outside Western culture, inner
dimensions of sustainability are considered as shaping the
outside world. The processes taking place at individual level
fundamentally affect the system level and are hence relevant
for identifying the causes of the global sustainability defi-
cit, as well as potential solutions (Villido 2018). As such,
ignorance of the inner sphere and personal disconnections
count among key causes for unsustainability (Villido 2018).
In contrast, self-awareness of the values populating indi-
vidual inner spaces, such as truth and love (Parodi 2018)
paves the way to personal transformation that can foster our
global transformation (O’Brien 2018). This under-consid-
ered notion of personal sustainability also echoes insights
from psychology that concepts of “self” play a central role in
Sustainability Science
1 3
moderating the relationship between values and behaviours
(Verplanken etal. 2009; Raymond and Raymond 2019).
Perspective 4 emphasises the role of individual value
change in fostering societal transformations while also high-
lighting possible guiding mechanisms or approaches, such
as empowerment and self-awareness for triggering it. Espe-
cially, in relation with Perspective 1, it opens sustainability
science to enquiries into the role of scientists in fostering
such changes, or in modelling specific values themselves. It
also raises questions on whether shifting values requires our
research to employ new methods of envisioning, of reflect-
ing, and of engaging with others such as serious games.
Table3 exemplifies how we applied Perspective 4 within
our ongoing ‘Leverage Points’ project.
Implications andfuture directions
Sustainability is a normative concept often suffering from
the lack of agreement regarding what is worthwhile and
meaningful. Values are generally narrowly considered inside
each of the four perspectives, and even more rarely across
them. Paradoxically, the ontological and epistemological
richness surrounding values creates a complexity that is
hard to navigate. Our four non-prescriptive perspectives help
to distil and embrace this complexity. They offer guidance
on where, and how to think about values when aiming for
scientific activities contributing to transformational change.
There are different situations in which one or more of the
perspectives becomes helpful. Our paper sought to facili-
tate a sustainability research practice that changes between
the different perspectives, depending on what is needed.
The surfacing implicit values perspective draws attention
to the normative choices hiding in scientific models, con-
cepts and practices, and how they frame (in the broadest
sense) the opportunity spaces for sustainability science. The
negotiating values perspective focuses on unfolding the val-
ues of different actors involved in participatory settings, and
how these shape the outcomes of decision processes within
opportunity spaces delineated in Perspective 1. In contrast,
the eliciting values perspective investigates attributing con-
textual and transcendental values in relation with specific
changing states of the world, while the transforming through
values perspective looks at the potential of individual value
change or activation to function as intervention point for
sustainability transformations. The four closely interrelated
perspectives are not part of a linear progression, and do not
imply a hierarchy of elements of process, yet have differ-
ent degrees of depth in undertaking value enquiries or ulti-
mately values related interventions (Fig.1, Table1). They
range from internal reflection within science and society,
and directions to reform sustainability science and prac-
tice (Perspective 1)to a more external (Perspective 3) and
interventionist stance (Perspective 4). For example, social
representation theory asserts that to foster a shared social
ground and achieve further interactions, we need to under-
stand the perspectives used by different individuals and
communities (Perspective 2) prior to eliciting social values
(Perspective 3). The perspectives also call for fundamental
paradigm shifts either at the level of science (Perspective 1,
3) or at the level of society (Perspectives 2–4). Documenting
how the perspectives shape, constrain and interact with each
other, and proposing strategic ways to combine their differ-
ent aspects according to the sustainability problem at hand,
support mainstreaming value enquiries into transformational
sustainability science.
We discuss key messages of the four perspectives in
terms of their implications for (1) transformational scientific
practice, (2) transformational research agendas, and (3) sus-
tainability transformations in practice. Across the perspec-
tives, transdisciplinarity, as one key sustainability research
practice seems well suited to systematically incorporate
Table 3 Example of engaging with Perspective 4 (Transforming through values) within the Leverage Points project
Serious games are appealing in social processes for shaping decisions because they: (a) create immersive spaces to experiment with situations
that are impossible in the real-world (e.g. switch of roles); (b) allow for testing novel solutions in a safe, risk-free space, where immediate
feedback on consequences is provided; (c) dismantle real-life power relations and provide equal access to the game situation (Medema etal.
2016; Hummel etal. 2011; Katsaliaki and Mustafee 2012). As a consequence, they are thought of as tools for facilitating social learning,
through processes of trust building, empathy exchange, and competence and skill development (Hummel etal. 2011).
In models of behaviour change used to understand the contribution of serious games to societal change, value change appears as one important
mediating variable.
In our transdisciplinary work with farmers managing a pasture in a Saxon village in Transylvania, Romania, we used a serious game about
contributing to a common good as a means to enhance collaboration. As reported in informal discussions with the participants, the pro-
cess allowed for a levelling out of pre-existing roles and power dynamics, focusing the attention on the common interest in maintaining the
resource. For the first time in several years, the neutral space provided by the game context enabled real-life “enemies” to meet and discuss
joint strategies, changing their previously free-riding or conflictual behaviours, while at the same time building an understanding that they
might actually share common interests.
As a one-time event, this may not equate with the deeptransformational value change required for long-term collaboration, but game theoretic
research on repetitive interactions (Axelrod and Hamilton 1981) opens a promising avenue for the hypothesis that serious games might have a
role astransformational interventions in social–ecological systems.
Sustainability Science
1 3
transcendental values in transformation processes guided
or informed by sustainability science. Transdisciplinarity
is typically envisaged as a science–society collaboration
that spans a broad range of disciplines and that involves
the perspectives and interpretations of actors affected by
the problem constellation under scrutiny (Lang etal. 2012;
Popa etal. 2014). Nevertheless, consideration of values in
transdisciplinary research theory and practice remains in its
infancy. In addition, this research practice also faces other
challenges, such as navigating the tension between allocating
a lot of attention to the process at the expense of expedit-
ing outcomes, or balancing scientific rigor with societal rel-
evance. However, it is precisely at these interfaces, where a
space exists to bridge different actors’ disparate, value-laden
assumptions and transcendental values. In so doing, trans-
disciplinary approaches provide the possibility to make vis-
ible and ultimately co-generate more robust, legitimate, and
transparent social values that act as a guide for sustainability
transformations. Such approaches enable mutual learning
between scientists rooted in different academic traditions and
actors outside academia from different knowledge domains.
Similarly, when considering implications for transfor-
mational research agendas, the notion of holistic, integra-
tive approaches for considering values in transformational
change become key across all perspectives. Each perspective
calls for holding space for more inclusive approaches for co-
producing knowledge (Perspective 1), deliberative partici-
patory practices (Perspective 2), value elicitation methods
(Perspective 3), or a more holistic consideration of where
to intervene in complex socio-ecological systems to effect
transformational change (Perspective 4). This opening up
of knowledge systems (Cornell etal. 2013) and widening
of valuation methodologies (Arias-Arévalo etal. 2018) also
aims to steer current transformational research beyond the
dominant Western-style scientific-rational way of seeing the
world to include currently under-considered aspects in the
values perspectives, such as indigenous and local knowl-
edge (Van Kerkhoff and Lebel 2015). More reflexive and
co-created approaches of operationalizing values in relation
with transformational change are better tailored for the het-
erogeneity and complexity of value understandings.
For future research agendas, value shifts are probably not
the holy grail of transformational change, yet they have the
potential to go beyondincremental change. Values are theo-
retically associated with deep leverage points (Abson etal.
2017; Fischer etal. 2012), where interventions can lead to
fundamental system transformation, as opposed to interven-
tions at shallow leverage points such as modifying param-
eters or altering feedback loops in resource use (Meadows
1999) (see also Fig.1). Kendal and Raymond (2019) point
towards ways in which this potential could be leveraged over
time, such as shifts in transcendental values in response to
societal development or economic circumstances. Moreover,
social values emerging from sustainability science processes
(Perspective 1), or actively changed via such processes (Per-
spective 4) may determine our ability to envision and design
systems to fulfil our needs in a just and sustainable manner
(Abson etal. 2017). Similarly, by explicitly considering how
different transcendental and contextual values are navigated
and expressed in social processes related to transformational
change we open the prospect for transdisciplinary processes
that better reflect what those societal needs are (rather than
imposing understandings of those needs for specific tradi-
tions of science).
At the level of sustainability transformations in practice,
the four perspectives invite reflexive introspection from
sustainability scientists themselves (Perspective 1, Popa
etal. 2014; Wittmayer and Schäpke 2014), and from actors
in other societal domains (Perspective 4, Ives etal. 2018).
Weaving self-reflection and self-awareness in everyday
research practice might be a way forward for researchers’
interactions among themselves, with young scholars or soci-
etal stakeholders (Lang etal. 2017). Our calls to enliven
the inner dimensions of sustainability and transformation
through reflexive practices and habits of mind set a clear
agenda for scientists and policymakers to move beyond the
discomfort created by such a deep and complex concept by
embracing its complexity.
Praxis recommendations
To incorporate social values in transformational processes
and critically deal with their plurality, we suggest that there
is a need to actively reflect on one’s own positionality in
relation with the particular operationalization of values iden-
tified in the four values perspectives. This requires organ-
ising deliberative fora to surface how these different faces
of social values shape sustainability science and transfor-
mational processes. When multiple actors are involved (in
surfacing, negotiating or eliciting values), engaging a ‘values
broker’ may help mediate between the expressed competing
values to prevent conflict (see e.g., Ingold and Varone 2012)
or shape consensus. Unpacking and negotiating conflicting
values through deliberation are also likely to affect what
transcendental values and preferences people express. This
calls for a new negotiation and agreement on the terms of
deliberation at the incipient phases of participatory and elici-
tation processes that facilitate and inform decision-making.
Similarly, the impact of how values are ascribed and elic-
ited for guiding policy formation and for being incorporated
into policies needs to be assessed. It is increasingly apparent
that the terms of deliberation or valuation do not necessarily
need to lead to unanimous consensus, but rather plastic ways
to deal with value conflicts while maintaining the naturally
occurring plurality of expressed differences. Seeing that
Sustainability Science
1 3
sustainability is considered a collective balancing act involv-
ing a continuous process of negotiation of social values and
interests (Loorbach etal. 2011), the four perspectives pre-
sented here help articulate a collaborative approach to policy
and practice that promotes mutual learning between practice
and science.
By examining different ways to operationalize values in
transformational sustainability science, this paper provides
a foundation for advancing a value-based perspective in
transformational research, from which to further develop
sustainability theory and transformational practice. Explicit
recognition of the four interconnected perspectives can help
sustainability scientists to: (1) move beyond general discus-
sions implying that values matter while being vague about
how and where, (2) gain an awareness of the positionality
of one’s own values perspective when undertaking values
related sustainability research, and (3) reflect on the opera-
tionalizations of values in different contexts such as those
shaped by local perspectives. While it is important to rec-
ognise that our categorization of four values perspectives
in relation with sustainability science and transformational
change does not encompass the diversity of narratives
around values and change in the literature, we believe that
it can enable boundary work at the science–policy–society
interface for sustainability transformation. There would be
numerous rewards from bringing such a hidden topic to light.
Acknowledgements We thank Moritz Engbers for an inspiring discus-
sion on Perspective 1. This research was supported by the Volkswagen-
stiftung and the Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und
Kultur funded project ‘Leverage Points for Sustainable Transforma-
tions: Institutions, People and Knowledge’ (Grant Number A112269).
We are also grateful to two reviewers for critical and helpful comments
that have much improved the paper.
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... Without such dialogue, the implementation of interventions might lead to inconsistencies, or to conflicts and coercion among actors with asymmetric power-relations [44]. Instead of promoting solution-oriented deliberations based on diverse, coexisting values, implementations can result in the imposition of a single perspective and dominance of a single interest [54] (see previous section for an example). Creating concrete interventions, hence, requires researchers and decision-makers to develop an openness towards the dialectical processes of the implementation of action concerning different understandings of types of knowledge and policies [31]. ...
... Research needs to create space and time for iterative cycles of feedback and dialogue about the diversity of stakeholders, their perspectives and powerrelations that otherwise would be overlooked [56]. Stimulating the dialogue about underlying values and assumptions of social-ecological systems can strengthen the implementation of interventions by increasing participation and social legitimacy [54]. This must necessarily be accompanied by a change in the way scientific research is funded, allowing the process of long-term social-ecological research. ...
Strategies to address the current unsustainable trajectory of our planet require deep transformations. The leverage points perspective can support such efforts for transformative change by motivating more research combining empirical and theoretical frameworks to understand the dynamics of complex social–ecological systems. We argue that the leverage points perspective can foster (i) a stronger engagement with plural ways of knowing (i.e. diverse epistemologies) and diverse, potentially divergent paradigms; (ii) a combination of methods to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of system dynamics; (iii) special attention to possible interactions between leverage points within a given system to design more effective interventions and (iv) the recognition of power imbalances and differing values to reach agreements, shared visions and codesigned actions.
... However, it can also create a context of pronounced power asymmetries, where only a few actors express their opinions and others do not have the confidence needed to speak freely, which results in a false consensus. Consequently, we believe that future participative instances should summon these key actors through direct invitations and consider more suitable exchange scenarios, creating initial focal groups that consist of a single type of actor in order to reduce power asymmetries and knowledge disparity, and promote increased confidence and openness (Cáceres et al. 2015;Horcea-Milcu et al. 2019). On top of reducing asymmetries in future experiences, we believe that, in order to achieve a participative and sustainable management of the territory in question, it would be necessary to conduct studies on the power relations that mediate the access, use and distribution of ES (Berbés-Blázquez et al. 2016). ...
... Lastly, the experience and lessons taken from this journey, as well as future participative meetings, aim to provide an alternative path of co-creation of knowledge, where science is no longer a means to legitimize policies of narrow consensus, but an enabler for the dialogue of knowledge (e.g., Sala 2021). In that sense, it becomes necessary to include new voices, develop new methods and improve plural valuation networks and practices so that it becomes a community tool that generates social learning and transforms local socioenvironmental issues (Leff 2007;Ortega-Uribe et al. 2014;Horcea-Milcu et al. 2019;Hanspach et al. 2020). ...
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Natural systems in Argentina have gradually faded as a consequence of land use change, resulting in a diminished capacity to provide the ecosystem services (ES) essential for the well-being of the communities. The basin of the Chocancharava River fits within that context and is immersed in an urban-agricultural matrix that has produced major forest fragmentation. Based on this socio-environmental problem, the present report recounts the challenges and possibilities pertaining to an experience in community management. First of all, a conservation-status assessment of the forest remnants was used as a steppingstone to convene the first meeting of institutions linked to the territory. This interagency coupling allowed for a more holistic diagnosis and the formulation of action plans. The first result was the creation of a peri-urban provincial reserve. Managing the reserve demanded a wider involvement from the community and the provision of a space where all possible voices could be heard. Therefore, the first participative workshop was held, in which ties with the environment were problematized through the ES framework. This experience was of importance when pondering about unilateral decision-making models and grasping the value of community-based networks to generate more inclusive policies. In addition, the workshop provided a space for the co-production of knowledge regarding main actors and tensions about natural resources uses. Furthermore, this process constituted a road of reflection regarding our practices, which are vital for new community processes with results that are legitimate and relevant for the socioecological transformation of the system.
... Although there has been much recent discussion of the role of social values and normativity within sustainability science [5][6][7], much of this discussion has tended to be disconnected from fields that have a long tradition of discussing the role of social values in science [6]. Though normativity has always been central to sustainability science, it has thus far failed to draw on the full wealth of approaches from social sciences and the humanities that deal explicitly with it [8]. ...
In this paper, I put forward an argument that sustainability science can make objectively grounded normative claims about what courses of action society should pursue in order to achieve sustainability. From a survey of the philosophy of science, social theory and sustainability science literature, I put forward an approach to justifying these normative arguments. This approach builds on the insight that social theories are value-laden and that dominant and pervasive social practices find their justification in some social theory. The approach: (i) focuses on the analysis of concrete cases; (ii) paying attention to the social practices that produce environmental problems and the theories that support those practices; (iii) examines alternative theories, and (iv) justifies a normative position by identifying the most comprehensive theoretical understanding of the particular case. Although the approach focuses on the analysis of particular cases it does not rely on value relativism. Furthermore, while the focus is on the role of science in producing normative arguments about society’s trajectory, it maintains space for the inclusion of the values of the public in environmental decision-making. However, while this approach aims to provide a rational basis to normative positions, it does not presume that this will lead to social consensus on these issues.
... Proponents of this perspective argue that transformations to sustainability must be accompanied by concomitant change in our "inner worlds" (Ives et al. 2020)-people's values, beliefs, attitudes and worldviews. Values have been proposed as "deep leverage points" whereby shifts in values can lead to and support broader changes in system structures and behaviours (Horcea-Milcu et al. 2019). Indeed, the IPBES Global Assessment has identified priority "leverage points" for enabling societal transformation for sustainability as including embracing "diverse visions of a good life" and "unleash[ing] latent values of responsibility to enable widespread action" (Chan et al. 2020, p. 7). ...
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With growing attention on the importance of values, beliefs and worldviews in shaping environmental outcomes, there remains little research on religion and sustainability transformations. We explored the impact of the Archbishop of Canterbury's environmentally themed Lent Book 2020 "Saying Yes to Life" on environmental values, attitudes and behaviours of lay Christians. An online survey administered before and after reading the book assessed environmental values, New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), connectedness to nature and environmental behaviours, and collected open responses to questions about participants' perceptions. Follow-up focus groups were also held to understand experiences of cognitive and behavioural change. Analysis of paired data revealed significant increases in environmental behavioural intentions after completing the book, especially for energy use, food and recycling. Some evidence for strengthening of NEP scores and connectedness to nature was also found. Open text responses corroborated with quantitative measures of behaviour change. Additionally, the majority of participants reported some form of reinforcement, confirmation, or further development or change in their beliefs and attitudes. This included a reduction in anthropocentric beliefs and greater appreciation of and obligation towards the natural world. Focus group discussions revealed diverse participant experiences, including having pre-existing theological beliefs affirmed, responding with new practical actions, connecting with spiritual experiences, and discovering systemic origins of unsustainability. Findings suggest potential for environmental interventions within religious contexts to shape mindsets, integrate theological views with environmental concerns, activate latent beliefs, and initiate and sustain pro-environmental behaviour. More intentional engagement with religion may facilitate transformative change for sustainability internally and externally, and across individual, organisational and societal domains. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11625-022-01197-w.
... In plain words, individuals set and pursue specific goals that are congruent with their values [70]. Hence, by leading trainees (re)construct their value systems, adult education can prompt personal action, which is the stepping stone to sustainability transitions [71]. ...
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Sustainability transitions are long-term processes that involve interactions among societal groups and promote co-evolutionary socio-technical transformations aimed at addressing crucial sustainability challenges. Although the focus of relevant work is often on groups, sustainability transitions also require personal transformations. Can adult education be a vehicle for promoting such transformations? In the present study, we attempted to answer this question by examining whether participation in sustainability-related adult education programs (AEPs) leads to the development of sustainability awareness, formation of sustainability-related values, construction of sustainability empathy, and initiation of pro-sustainability action among individuals. Following a quantitative research design and drawing upon data from farmers and teachers, we compared attendees and non-attendees of AEPs on the above-mentioned constructs. The analysis revealed that attendees scored significantly higher than non-attendees in awareness, values, empathy, and action. A series of hierarchical regressions confirmed the association between participation and the outcome variables, also showing no effects of demographic factors on the models. These results underscore the potential contribution of sustainability-related adult education to individual transformation, thus suggesting that targeted adult education interventions can facilitate sustainability transitions.
... Here, policies are designed to protect and maintain the underpinning ecosystems before the increasing scarcity or competition for their resources and services results in them becoming either prohibitively expensive to restore or substituted by technological innovation within the economic system (Carvalho, 2017). Recognizing the value of ecosystem services serves to highlight and increase awareness of the costs that society will face if ecosystem resources and services are undermined (Horcea-Milcu et al., 2019). Such an 'internalization' process is one objective of any Political Economy, as a top-down approach adopted by the government and implemented via its policies (Cairney, 2015;Fraser et al., 2006). ...
Economies depend on ecosystem services, but only recently have ecosystem service values been incorporated into economic and political decision-making. Increasingly, offsets have become a common valuation tool for incorporating the value of nature into economics. To offset means to compensate ecosystem losses in one place by creating equivalent gains elsewhere: this is the pragmatic ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity approach. Offsets are currently attracting particular attention in Santos, Brazil, where the largest Global South harbor is located. Port stakeholders are pressuring for revision of the local offset policy to enable an expansion of their activities and related immitigable impacts. Seeking to contribute to improved policy design at local scale, we proceed in two steps: (1) compiling and selecting comparable offsets policies around the world, considering those targeted specifically at ecosystems; and (2) identifying the methodological differences that can lead to discrepancies in final monetary values. Results show that the same kind of development (port), impacting a similar ecosystem (mangrove), have been assigned offset values six times less if allocated in São Paulo (Brazil) rather than in Queensland (Australia). We identify a general out-of-kind tendency for offsets and explore these comparative results from the perspective of identifying possible and desirable improvements.
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The burgeoning literature on sustainability transformation agrees that values play a key, albeit unelucidated, role on the transformation research agenda. Recent literature linking values and transformation increasingly points toward the hypothesis that values may act as leverage points for sustainability transformation. However, how transformation research can engage with values as leverage points remains a critical knowledge gap. Here, I argue that transformation research needs to distinguish between two modes of knowledge production and mobilization: a linear, knowledge-first, mode-1 science, and a context-sensitive, linearity-contesting, mode-2 science. Based on this distinction, I identify two complementary pathways for transformation research to contribute to unleashing the transformative potential of values. I clarify that interventions targeting values rely on the stance taken on the relationship between science and society, and between production and governance of research. Knowledge about values as leverage points needs to be produced from both a mode-1 and mode-2 science perspective.
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Governments are inherently responsible for citizens' well-being. Given that achieving sustainable development ["Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs"—(WCED in Our common future, Oxford University Press, New York, 1987)] is core to the attainment and maintenance of citizens' well-being, and increasingly understood to require major transformations in integrated social, technological and ecological systems (Sachs et al. in The decade of action for the sustainable development goals: sustainable development report 2021, Cambridge, 2021), it follows that governments have a significant role in shaping transformations. Muted progress on long-standing social, environmental, and economic challenges alongside spiralling public budgets and intergenerational debt suggests, however, that public governance systems are inadequate to facilitate the transformations urgently required. Conceptualising the practice of public decision-making as a complex system, this paper investigates whether known influences on public decision-makers can be linked to Meadows’ (Leverage points: places to intervene in a system, Sustainability Institute, North Charleston, 1999) leverage point framework. Finding meaningful connections, it further explores how the leverage point framework can be employed to engage decision-making influences as enablers of desirable public outcomes. It is contended that shifting decision-makers’ focus one step beyond currently prevalent leverage points will set in motion the transformations in governance required to facilitate sustainable development.
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Indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings (UNESCO, 2018; IPCC, 2019a). Local knowledge refers to the understandings and skills developed by individuals and populations, specific to the places where they live (UNESCO, 2018; IPCC, 2019a). Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge are inherently valuable but have only recently begun to be appreciated and in western scientific assessment processes in their own right (Ford et al., 2016). In the past these often endangered ways of knowing have been suppressed or attacked (Mustonen, 2014). Yet these knowledge systems represent a range of cultural practices, wisdom, traditions and ways of knowing the world that provide accurate and useful climate change information, observations and solutions (very high confidence) (Table Cross-Chapter Box INDIG.1). Rooted in their own contextual and relative embedded locations, some of these knowledges represent unbroken engagement with the earth, nature and weather for many tens of thousands of years, with an understanding of the ecosystem and climatic changes over longer-term timescales that is held both as knowledge by Indigenous Peoples and local peoples, as well as in the archaeological record (Barnhardt and Angayuqaq, 2005; UNESCO, 2018).
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This Cross-Chapter Box highlights the intersecting issues of gender, climate change adaptation, climate justice and transformative pathways. A gender perspective does not centre only on women or men but examines structures, processes and relationships of power between and among groups of men and women and how gender, particularly in its non-binary form, intersects with other social categories such as race, class, socioeconomic status, nationality or education to create multi-dimensional inequalities
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Despite the increasing interest in the intersections among values, well-being and environmental outcomes in sustainability science, few studies have considered these relationships by drawing on well-established theories and methods from positive psychology. The aim of this paper is to review three approaches conceptually related to positive psychology (self-determination theory, SDT; character strengths and virtues, CSV; acceptancy and commitment therapy, ACT) and compare these to sustainability approaches to well-being and values. First, we critically compare how values are understood, constructed and operationalised within the positive psychology and environmental values literatures. We offer a summary table to detail key concepts (and articles) which sustainability scientists may draw upon in their work against the dimensions of (1) elicitation process, (2) value provider (3) value concept and (4) value indicators. Second, we critically compare how the positive psychology and environmental values literature have considered the intersections between values and well-being. We identify the positive psychology pathways of ‘value activation’ and ‘healthy-values’ as alternative methods for sustainability scientists to consider. Third, we offer future options for the integration of positive psychology and environmental values literatures to deliver interventions which may lead to well-being and sustainability outcomes. We suggest that mindfulness could be applied as a method to clarify and activate values within a nature exposure context, which harnesses the qualities of both disciplines. To demonstrate integrative possibilities, a case example is offered which brings focus to well-being and sustainability outcomes, the intersection of value pathways, and intervention components drawn from both disciplines.
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It is widely acknowledged that the large-scale and long-term transitions needed to mitigate climate change and to implement policies for sustainable development within planetary boundaries require significant shifts in values and behaviours. Consequently, there is increasing interest in the processes through which major societal transitions for sustainability can occur through peaceful cooperation and widespread embrace of pro-environmental values, and the values associated with the broad concept of sustainability such as care for the interests of future generations and concern for the poor. This encompasses the search for compelling narratives to frame the process and goals of change and the need for the fostering of virtues and ethical frameworks of identity and practice that can underpin advocacy and change for sustainability. This requires drawing on richer sources of values and ethics. We suggest that important resources can be found in religious, as well as secular traditions of social values and ethical analysis. While major religions have begun to reflect environmental concerns and sustainability goals in their theology and praxis, with immense potential and actual influence over value and behaviours, little research has explored the impacts and implications of this development; nor indeed, the intellectual stimulus and social capabilities they can offer to secular thinkers and practitioners in sustainable development. In particular, we argue that there is a need to consider the affinities between secular sustainability frameworks for ethics and policy and the concepts of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) on the Common Good, recently updated by Pope Francis to integrate ecological concern and a call for universal ‘ecological conversion’ and cooperation. We outline the key features of CST and the Pope’s new ‘Integral Ecology’ framework and identify affinities, in particular, with Elinor Ostrom’s system of design principles for sustainable management of commons. We conclude with suggestions for research to investigate the interrelationships of the Integral Ecology reframing of CST with initiatives for transformational change in values and practices for sustainability.
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Human behavior is influenced by an array of psychological processes such as environmental values. Despite the importance of understanding the reasons why people engage in activities that minimize environmental degradation, empirical research rarely integrates different types of values simultaneously to provide more complete and multi-faceted insights on how values contribute to environmental sustainability. Drawing from on-site survey data collected in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska (n = 641), we used two-step structural equation modeling to test how variation in behavioral patterns was explained by the cultural, individual, and social values of visitors to a national park. We fused various disciplinary perspectives on the value concept to demonstrate how individual- and group-level dynamics were integral for predicting behavior and better understanding aggregated preferences for environmental conditions in the context of a U.S. protected area.
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Despite rich theorisation on the structure and content of people’s values and great interest in the concept of value change, there is currently little coordinated understanding of how people’s values might shift over time. This paper draws upon different value traditions in a multi-level framework that articulates possible pathways of value change within individuals and groups and within a social–ecological context. Individual- and group-level values may change in response to events over an individual’s life course or changes in the social–ecological context that people are living in. Group-level values may also change as the composition of individuals within a social group change. These pathways are likely to act differently on values conceived as guiding principles (transcendental values) and values that people assign to people, places, or things around them (contextual values). We present a research agenda to develop a better understanding of these pathways: assessing the associations between value change and demographic change in a highly mobile world; developing a theoretical and empirical basis for understanding value shifts associated with social–ecological and land-use change; clearer identification of the groups of people that are subject to proposed mechanisms explaining value shifts; and bridging psychological framing of values to other more embodied understandings that may be better placed to explain value shift in the context of social–ecological change.
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Social values underpin complex social-ecological challenges, such as sustainability. However, there are many ways of conceptualising values and valuing, and this divergence limits conversations across research disciplines, hindering the practical incorporation of values into sustainability decision making. We identify two key tensions in the disparate and fragmented ways of understanding the nature of values: context dependence and level of abstractness. We consider how these tensions apply across a breadth of concepts relevant to understanding the importance of socio-ecological systems to people, including valued attributes and assets, cultural values, and connection to place. We propose a conceptual framework structured by these tensions to orient multiple value concepts in relation to each other. We present the conceptual framework as being ontologically plural, and epistemologically flexible, providing a framework for mapping value concepts across different levels of abstractness and context dependency. The framework offers a means to span the breadth of value concepts and acts as a starting point for fostering cross-disciplinary conversations. We discuss the implications of the framework for researchers engaging with multiple theoretical traditions, as well as for practitioners grappling with how to make sense of what is important to the communities.
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Carbon roadmaps and pathways are important for describing, planning and tracking the technical, managerial and behavioral changes that are consistent with the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, roadmaps and pathways for decarbonization often gloss over a fundamental question: ‘How do deliberate social transformations happen?’ Often the social complexity of transformation processes is downplayed or ignored in favor of technical solutions and behavioral approaches. In this article, I explain why they are incomplete and unlikely to ‘bend the curves’ to reduce emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement. I first discuss the distinction between technical and adaptive challenges and why this is relevant. I then review and describe the dynamics of social change in relation to three related and interacting ‘spheres’ of transformation: the practical, political, and personal spheres. Finally, I explore how these three spheres can be used to identify leverage points for transformations that support the 1.5°C target.
Transition to sustainability is stuck and academic research has not resulted in significant change so far. A large void in sustainability research and the understanding of sustainable development is an important reason for this. Personal Sustainability seeks to address this void, opening up a whole cosmos of sustainable development that has so far been largely unexplored. Mainstream academic, economic and political sustainable development concepts and efforts draw on the macro level and tend to address external, collective and global processes. By contrast, the human, individual, intra- and inter-personal aspects on the micro level are often left unaddressed. The authors of Personal Sustainability invite the reader on a self-reflecting journey into this unexplored inner cosmos of sustainable development, focusing on subjective, mental, emotional, bodily, spiritual and cultural aspects. Although these are intrinsically human aspects they have been systematically ignored by academia. To establish this new field in sustainability research means to leave the common scientific paths and expand the horizon. Together with authors from cultural studies, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, aesthetics and economics, and supported by contributions from practitioners, this book portrays different approaches to personal sustainability and reflects on their potentials and pitfalls, paving the way to cultures of sustainability. This book will be of great interest to researchers and students in the field of sustainability and sustainable development, as well as researchers from philosophy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, ethnology, educational research, didactics, aesthetics, economics, business and public administration. © 2018 selection and editorial matter, Oliver Parodi and Kaidi Tamm; individual chapters, the contributors.