Do Values Influence Acceptance Among Decision Makers in the Private Sector when Approached as Private Citizens

In the study by Nilsson and Biel (2005), the primary aim was to examine how values and norms influence willingness to accept climate change policy measures among decision-makers in the private sector considered as private citizens. Following Rohan's (2000) distinction between personal and social value priorities, there may be a difference between what individuals as private citizen prioritize and what they prioritize as decision-makers in private companies. As seen from the results in the previous study, decision-makers in private organizations were not guided by environmental values when expressing their attitudes towards policy measures. Rather, goals such as profit maximization that promote the internal interests of the organization determined their attitudes. When addressed as private citizens, a private frame and value system could become more salient. Values of an increasingly self-transcendent nature are then more likely to spring to mind (compare Stern et al, 1999).

If environmental values and personal norms are more important when decision-makers are addressed as private citizens, it can also be presumed that attitudes differ when people are addressed within their organizations, compared to when they present themselves as private citizens. Together with previous research (Stern et al, 1999), this would also make a strong claim about the importance of values and norms as determinants of environmental policy measures among private citizens, in general.

To clarify this hypothesis, a new sample of respondents was selected according to the same criteria applied in the previous study. Hence, they were all decision-makers in companies in the trade and industry sectors that had at least 35 employees.2

Results showed that when people in business were approached as private citizens, the importance of self-transcendent values increased, while the importance of self-enhancement values decreased. Furthermore, obligations to prevent negative consequences from climate change were stronger when respondents were addressed as private citizens rather than as decision-makers in companies. Finally, acceptance of policy measures could be accounted for by environmental values and personal norms. Taken together, the results indicate that a personal value structure is evoked in the private domain, while a social structure is predominant in an organizational setting. Moreover, value priorities could differ between these two structures.

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