Values and Their Influence

What role do values play?

We all value things differently. Organizations also have diverse values, which means they place different emphases on the three sustainability dimensions.

Some organizations place more emphasis on the environment, especially if they are resource intensive. Other organizations will place more emphasis on the social dimension and ethics, especially if they have operations in developing countries in which these issues often arise.

The continuums below illustrate three important values that affect an entity’s interpretation of sustainability.

Organizations and individuals whose values lean more toward long-term planning, community interest, and equal treatment of humans and nature tend to set higher sustainability expectations.

  • Long- term Planning: Many sustainability projects take longer to implement and affect future generations.
  • Community Interest: Community interest is more concerned about common property, such as air, ocean waters and rivers, and protected land areas rather than individual rights to the use of these resources.
  • Priority of Humans vs. Nature: Those that think the benefit of a tree is only for what it can provide humans, such as lumber and paper rather than the joy of seeing a beautiful tree, lean toward human priority. Those that value nature for its own beauty rather than for what nature can provide humans will lean toward the end representing equal treatment of all living things.

– Source: Adapted from Kluckhohn, Florence Rockwood; Strodtbeck, Fred L. (1961) Variation in Va Orientations. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.