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Psychology of Sustainability and Sustainable Development

A section of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

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The psychology of sustainability and sustainable development (Di Fabio, 2017a, 2017b; Di Fabio and Rosen, 2018) constitutes a new research area in the field of Sustainability Science. It contributes to sustainability issues by introducing a psychological perspective and promoting the trans-disciplinary framework at the basis of Sustainability Science. Steadily setting up the psychology of sustainability and sustainable development as a research area, rather than one that only presents sporadic contributions (and often only as theoretical reflections), means recognizing and mixing the worth of psychology and the psychological approach in the construction of processes associated with sustainability and sustainable development. This is mainly significant in terms of environmental sustainability and sustainable development in relation to the natural environment, as psychological processes are often concerned in environmental decisions and behavior as well as in developing and establishing a culture of sustainability regarding the natural environment. In fact, many of the related decisional and behavioral processes are corroborated mostly by internal psychological processes within the individual. Giving the right value to these processes asks that they be studied and understood better. The innovative psychological research perspective comprehend in the psychology of sustainability and sustainable development is essential for that. This perspective could permit one to also advance psychological contributions to the concrete answers to each of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2018), which extend to 2030 and which are of vital importance for the world and humanity.

The psychology of sustainability and sustainable development represents new research area in the field of psychology. Answering to sustainability issues introducing psychological contributions means both to enhance the trans-disciplinary perspective and to enlarge the concept of sustainability through this innovative perspective. It also means to overcome a perspective exclusively based on the ecological and socio-economic environment, thus seeking to improve the quality of life of each human being with and in the environments. This approach overcomes the traditional framework based on the three “Es” (economy, equity, and ecology) and the traditional definition of sustainability centered on “avoiding” something, in terms of exploitation, depletion, and irreversible alteration. It introduces, on the contrary, a new definition based on the “promotion” of something, where the new keywords are enrichment, growth, and flexible change. The psychology of sustainability and sustainable development also introduces a new axis of psychological reflection on what is really sustainable for individuals in particular environments (natural, personal, social, and organizational) and for the environment/environments too. The psychology of sustainability and sustainable development enhances the sustainability of interpersonal and intrapersonal talent as well as of groups and communities, including aspects of reflexivity, meaning, purpose, and flourishing for the sustainability of projects harmonizing the different perspectives in relation to the environment/environments. It asks for a wide and complex vision, from personal careers and life projects to projects regarding natural, social, and organizational environments. Its mission is offering contributions to promote effective and sustainable well-being for individuals and environments from a psychological research perspective.

This section is focused on the innovative contribution that psychology can make to the theme of sustainability and sustainable development. It focuses on both healthy and safe environments, and the promotion of well-being and the quality of life of individuals within and in different environments. Its scope is to offer a framework of the current state-of-the-art of theories, and report research on the new topic of the psychology of sustainability and sustainable development, opening new challenges of research and intervention. Its purpose is to collect and present innovative reflections and results of empirical research on this theme.

The psychology of sustainability and the sustainable development perspective could yield contributions from a preventive perspective, perhaps by implementing research and interventions from a primarily preventative perspective (Di Fabio and Kenny, 2015, 2016; Hage et al., 2007; Kenny and Hage, 2009) and also from a secondary prevention and tertiary prevention. Focusing on crucial psychological aspects to concretely progress towards sustainability and sustainable development preventively will be another important challenge.

The psychology of sustainability and sustainable development is thus focused on different environments from the natural environment, the personal environment, the social environment, the organizational environment, and the inter-organizational environment, to the globalized environment and the virtual environment. Opening the black box of psychological processes in the science of sustainability and sustainable development will be the main aim of the new research area distinguishing this section.

Prof. Dr. Annamaria Di Fabio
Section Editor-in-Chief

  1. Di Fabio, A. (2017). The psychology of sustainability and sustainable development for well-being in organizations. In G. Arcangeli, G. Giorgi, N. Mucci, J.-L. Bernaud, & A. Di Fabio (Eds.), Emerging and re-emerging organizational features, work transitions and occupational risk factors: The good, the bad, the right. An interdisciplinary perspective. Research Topic in Frontiers in Psychology. Organizational Psychology, 8, 1534.
  2. Di Fabio, A. (Ed.) (in preparation). Psychology of Sustainability and Sustainable Development. Special Issue in Sustainability MDPI.
  3. Di Fabio, A., & Kenny, M. E. (2018). Connectedness to Nature, Personality Traits and Empathy from a Sustainability Perspective. Current Psychology. 1-12.
  4. Di Fabio, A., & Rosen, M. A. (2018). Opening the Black Box of Psychological Processes in the Science of Sustainable Development: A New Frontier. European Journal of Sustainable Development Research, 2(4), 47.


  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology
    • Professional well-being;
    • Psychology of sustainability;
    • Sustainable organizations, employability and work environment;
    • Primary prevention perspective in organizations.
  • Social/Community Psychology
    • Individual well-being and sustainable lifestyle;
    • Mental health related to natural, social and organizational environment;
    • Sustainable lifestyle;
    • Sustainable governance from a psychological perspective.
  • Environmental/Conservation Psychology
    • Pro-environmental behaviors;
    • Assessment of conservation value;
    • Ecological thinking and ethics.

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