The influence of communication on perceived barriers to environmental action

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This dissertation is motivated by a desire to increase our understanding of the role of communication in affecting barriers that individuals perceive to environmental action, especially in the context of organizations. This is achieved by reviewing previous literature and building a theoretical framework based on it in Part I, as well as by analyzing two different types of empirical data in the four essays that form Part II. In Part I, the role of communication in influencing individuals’ environmental behavior is examined from a perspective that combines two types of communication that have previously been studied as separate fields, i.e. media and organizational communication. Based on the theoretical framework, two overall research questions are formed: “What barriers to individual environmental action can be identified?” and “What is the role of communication in affecting these barriers?” In Part II, the first two essays examine the following two more specific research questions: “How do the media in different EU countries represent the EU climate package?” and “How might these media representations overcome previously identified barriers to environmental action, or create new barriers?” The analyses in these essays are undertaken from a critical discourse analytical (CDA) perspective. Essay 1 looks at 35 newspaper texts from six EU countries, Essay 2 at 16 newspaper texts from four EU countries. The latter two essays aim to answer the other two specific questions: “What potential barriers to environmental action can be identified in organizations?” and “How can organizations communicate environmental initiatives to their employees to overcome these barriers?” The answers are examined through qualitative thematic interviews (Essay 3: N=12 in one case company; Essay 4: N=13 in 13 case companies). The findings of the first two essays suggest that with regard to reporting on the EU climate package in 2008, media representations might have contributed to maintaining and reinforcing three previously identified barriers to individuals’ environmental action: the lack of political action by international and national governments, the attitude of decision-makers that other issues, i.e. financial and industrial concerns are more important than the environment, and collective notions of weak sustainability that do not promote radical ‘green’ action to fight climate change. The findings of the latter two essays suggest that the main barriers to environmental action in organizations are related to four issues: the importance of business-oriented rather than ecological values, employees’ low level of motivation for environmental action, the organizational culture of constantly being busy, and employees’ unwillingness to discuss environmental issues with their colleagues. To overcome these barriers in organizations, the dissertation proposes a framework for internal environment-related communication and makes five specific recommendations: only asking small environmental actions from employees, keeping the environment-business ‘fun and positive’, communicating face-to-face rather than electronically, assigning environmental contact persons to act as mediators between employees, and providing employees with incentives for meeting environmental targets.
Translated title of the contributionThe influence of communication on perceived barriers to environmental action
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Louhiala-Salminen, Leena, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-1053-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-1054-0
Publication statusPublished - 2010
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • communication
  • business communication
  • international
  • international companies


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