Re-Framing Sustainability in a Pandemic. Understanding Sustainability Attitudes, Behaviors, Visions and Responsibilities for a Post-Covid Future

Franzisca Weder*, Stefanie Mertl, Renate Hübner, Wilfried Elmenreich, Robert Sposato

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged global health and equity and reinforced intergenerational and ecological problems. Future orientation focuses primarily on existing global efforts (Earth Charter, UN Millennium Declaration, SDGs, etc.), however, there is a lack of concepts and empirical studies looking at the potential of a vision of and for the future influencing individual behavior, amplifying moral evaluations of everyday behavior, and allocating responsibility and agency. The pilot study presented assumes that sustainability as a normative framework has the potential to influence social practices on all levels (institutionalized to individual) and was aimed to explore the impact of Covid-related behavior changes on envisioned futures and the willingness to take responsibility for societal transformation processes. The insights gained from a mixed-method survey in Austria (2020, n = 264) indicate that people tend to use three narratives for the future, which are related to a certain degree of morality, the perception of being a change agent and the willingness to take responsibility as an individual. This enabled the creation of a typology of individual perceptions of sustainability, ranging from rather fear- or concern-driven resignation (Type A), to guilt-driven resilience (Type B) and to anger-driven but active responsibility (Type C). In the conclusion and outlook, limitations regarding the generalization of the results of the pilot study and future research potential are presented and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere220006
JournalJournal of Sustainability Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 by the author(s). Licensee Hapres, London, United Kingdom. This is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


  • agency
  • climate change
  • Covid-19
  • future
  • responsibility
  • social practices
  • survey
  • sustainability
  • sustainability communication
  • typology
  • vision

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