A new study has found that people with good jobs in big cities tend to have a more pro-environmental attitude.
The study of Chinese citizens found the status and political power of companies in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin strongly influence the conservation practices of their employees.
The findings will help China determine which audiences to target to encourage behaviours that can help counter the environmental costs associated with rapid economic growth.
The scientists found that employees here are likelier to engage in environmentally friendly activities that signal a desire to be green by, for example, sorting trash and participating in environmental litigation.
"Employment matters with regard to pro-environmental behaviour due to many different reasons. First, people may be affected by peers in their workplace through the diffusion of environmental values," said Xiaodong Chen, who conducted the study with colleagues while working on his doctorate in sustainability science at Michigan State University.
"Second, some pro-environmental behaviours need facilitating support such as equipment for classifying garbage or social groups who can organize these activities. Employment settings sometimes provide such support," he said.
Chen and colleagues analysed data from China's General Social Survey of 2003.
"It is essential to study human behaviour because behaviour directly affects the environment. As China is the world's fastest growing economy and cities are the economic engines with severe environmental challenges, understanding environmental behaviour of urban residents in China is particularly important," said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, CSIS (Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability) director.
"We found that employment status and rank of respondents mattered for five out of the six pro-environmental behaviours we studied, while income only mattered for one pro-environmental behaviour," Chen said.
"People who were in a job and people who were in a leadership position in their workplace reported more pro-environmental behaviours than people not employed and people in non-leadership positions" regardless of salary.
"You don't have to be rich to consider environmental issues," said Chen.
"China's leadership increasingly pays more attention to China's environmental issues and also the employers increasingly encourage more participation of their employees in environment related issues," said Liu.
"This top down approach has produced some good environmental results in China," he said.
The study is published this week in the British journal Environmental Conservation.