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Sustainability and the common good: Catholic Social Teaching and ‘Integral Ecology’ as contributions to a framework of social values for sustainability transitions

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Adam Hejnowicz



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


It is widely acknowledged that the large-scale and long-term transitions needed to mitigate climate change and to implement policies for sustainable development within planetary boundaries require significant shifts in values and behaviours. Consequently, there is increasing interest in the processes through which major societal transitions for sustainability can occur through peaceful cooperation and widespread embrace of pro-environmental values, and the values associated with the broad concept of sustainability such as care for the interests of future generations and concern for the poor. This encompasses the search for compelling narratives to frame the process and goals of change and the need for the fostering of virtues and ethical frameworks of identity and practice that can underpin advocacy and change for sustainability. This requires drawing on richer sources of values and ethics. We suggest that important resources can be found in religious, as well as secular traditions of social values and ethical analysis. While major religions have begun to reflect environmental concerns and sustainability goals in their theology and praxis, with immense potential and actual influence over value and behaviours, little research has explored the impacts and implications of this development; nor indeed, the intellectual stimulus and social capabilities they can offer to secular thinkers and practitioners in sustainable development. In particular, we argue that there is a need to consider the affinities between secular sustainability frameworks for ethics and policy and the concepts of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) on the Common Good, recently updated by Pope Francis to integrate ecological concern and a call for universal‘ecological conversion’ and cooperation. We outline the key features of CST and the Pope’s new ‘Integral Ecology’framework and identify affinities, in particular, with Elinor Ostrom’s system of design principles for sustainable management of commons. We conclude with suggestions for research to investigate the interrelationships of the Integral Ecology reframing of CST with initiatives for transformational change in values and practices for sustainability.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Christie I, Gunton RM, Hejnowicz AP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sustainability Science

Year: 2019

Volume: 14

Issue: 5

Pages: 1343–1354

Print publication date: 02/09/2019

Online publication date: 04/05/2019

Acceptance date: 03/04/2019

Date deposited: 18/02/2021

ISSN (print): 1862-4065

ISSN (electronic): 1862-4057

Publisher: Springer Japan KK


DOI: 10.1007/s11625-019-00691-y


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