Discourse on social values as they relate to environmental and sustainability issues has almost exclusively been conducted in a secular intellectual context. However, with a renewed emphasis on culture as defining and shaping links between people and nature, there has been an increasing level of scholarly attention to the role of religion and spirituality in defining and understanding these values. In this article we explore the intersection of religion and social values for sustainability. First, we consider this nexus as it has been explored in existing scholarship. We find that religion is commonly associated with self-transcendent values, although the degree to which it is translated into pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour varies according to context. Second, we argue that while there is much potential support for human values for sustainability within religious traditions, it is essential that religion is seen as a complex, multi-scalar and multi-dimensional institutional phenomena. Consequently, the relationship between religion and social values can only be accurately understood in the context of narratives, histories and practices. Third, using this lens, we show how religious perspectives can contribute to operationalising theories of systemic change for sustainability. Finally, we outline key principles for further sustainability research seeking understand better the relationship between religion and social values.
Co-presented with Chris Ives (School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK)