Caught between personal and collective values: biodiversity conservation in European decision-making

Eeva Primmer, Mette Termansen, Yennie Bredin, Malgorzata Blicharska, Marina García Llorente, Pam Berry, Tiina Jääskeläinen, Györgyi Bela, Veronika Fabok, Nicoleta Geamana, Paula A. Harrison, John R. Haslett, Georgia Lavinia Cosor, Anne H. K. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Individual decision‐makers at different governance levels operate in social contexts, which means that they sometimes need to compromise their personal values. Yet, this dissonance is rarely the direct target of empirical analyses of environmental decision‐making. We undertake a Q‐analysis of decision‐makers' personal perspectives and the perspectives they perceive to dominate in their decision‐making contexts. Our empirical analysis addresses biodiversity conservation, which has traditionally been justified with intrinsic value‐ and science‐based arguments. The arguments have recently been broadened with the concept of ecosystem services, highlighting human benefits and values. This evolving context is interesting because of the new rise of anthropocentric values, which can lead to decision‐makers experiencing dissonance. Our analysis of interviews with 43 biodiversity conservation decision‐makers from nine European countries reveals four personally held perspectives that highlight different, yet partly overlapping, values – intrinsic, human benefit, conservation and connection – as well as three perspectives perceived to dominate in decision‐making – utilitarian, insurance and knowledge values. The comparison of personally held and perceived dominant perspectives points to one major conflict: those decision‐makers who personally associate with intrinsic values and perceive utilitarian values to dominate in decision‐making experience dissonance. By contrast, personally held human benefit values are accommodated well in decision‐making contexts and decision‐makers who perceive insurance values to dominate experience the least conflict with personally held values. These findings demonstrate the potential of arguments stressing long‐term benefits for easing tension and conflicts in conservation decision‐making, and the usefulness of empirically testing of the coincidence of individual and social values.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)588-604
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 07.2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • 117,2 Environmental sciences


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