PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2016, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (6): 724-736.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2016.06.006

• Special Column: Ecocivilization and Tourism • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A review of environmental ethics and sustainable tourism behavior

XU Feifei1,2,*(),HE Yunmeng1   

  1. 1. Tourism Department, School of Humanities, Southeast University,Nanjing 210096, China
    2. Think-Tank of Ethics in Jiangsu,Nanjing 210096, China
  • Online:2016-06-28 Published:2016-06-28
  • Contact: XU Feifei
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41571133;National Social Science Foundation of China, No.15CKS014;Jiangsu Think-Tank of Ethics Development, No.2242016S30041;Fundamental Research Funds for the Central University, No.2242015R30020


Environmental ethics is a key concept in the development of human-nature relationship. Sustainable tourism has become a research focus in the past decades, but researchers argue that mainstream tourism is still far from sustainable as any movements towards sustainable tourism behavior depends on further advancement in environmental ethics. Through extensive and critical literature review based on the main databases in English and Chinese, this article discusses the conceptual development of environmental ethics, the influencing factors of environmental ethics, and the effect of environmental ethics on sustainable tourism behavior. The results suggest that the conceptual framework of environmental ethics includes environmental morality, environmental attachment, and environmental belief. Most studies did not differentiate environmental ethics and environmental belief. The New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) by Dunlap et al. is often used to examine environmental ethics and environmental belief, but there is a lack of consistency in the measurement of environmental attachment, therefore, different research findings are reported for environmental attachment. The most direct influencing factors to environmental ethics is value system as it deeply influences attitude, belief, norm, and behavior. Due to different value systems, people often have different attitudes towards the environment and resource management. Value Basis Theory (Stern and Dietz 1994) and Value-Belief-Norm (Stern et al. 1999) are often used in explaining environmental attitudes. Social-cultural factors are also key in shaping environmental ethics but this is often a under researched area. Other factors including religion, education, media, policy, and migration experiences within countries and abroad all contribute to the development of a person’s environmental ethics. Among the studies on environmental ethics and sustainable tourism, environmental attitude and environmental behavior in the tourism context have become a research focus. A variety of qualitative and quantitative methods have been used by western researchers, while Chinese scholars mainly focus on conceptual studies. Current studies frequently focus on environmental behavior while less consideration is given to the principles of sustainability, justice, and harmony in sustainable tourism. Future studies could focus on the following areas: (1) the measurement of the connotations of environmental ethics; (2) the influencing factors of environmental ethics; (3) the conceptual definition and measurement of sustainable tourism behavior; (4) the influence of cultural factors on environmental ethics and sustainable tourism behavior; and (5) the influencing mechanism and effect of environmental ethics on sustainable tourism behavior using quantitative and qualitative methods, contributing to the conceptual development and case studies of advancing ecological civilization from theory to practice.

Key words: environmental ethics, environmental morality, environmental belief, environmental attachment, sustainable tourism, research progress