Report – Stewardship: Exploring Faith and Sustainability

The Institute for the Impact of Faith in Life (IIFL) commissioned a bespoke nationally representative survey which focused on the relationship between faith and environmentalism in the UK. Fieldwork was carried out by Whitestone Insight (a member of the British Polling Council [BPC]) between the 31st May and 2nd June 2024. A total of 2,396 UK adults were surveyed across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. An additional booster set of 25 Muslims and 185 Hindus was included.

Any conclusions drawn from the results should not be extrapolated out to the wider population, but should simply be used as an indication of where certain groups and respondents stand on the issues on which we polled.

It should especially be noted that the samples of Jews, Sikhs and Buddhists were so small (15, 2, and 20 respectively) that the results from these faith groups in particular are not and should not be assumed to indicate any significant correlation between the answers given and the faith to which the respondents belong.

These are the key findings:

Hindus lead in personal environmental actions and environmental concern.

  • Whilst not the faith group that is most in agreement with faith obligations to care for the planet, Hindus show the highest levels of concern for the impacts of climate change leading them to be the most active in various personal environmental actions. 64% of exclusivist Hindus have participated in rewilding, compared to 31% of exclusivist Muslims and 22% of exclusivist Christians. They also lead in changing consumer habits (78%), donating to charities (63%), and joining environmental groups (44%). Hindus are then most likely to consider environmentalism when voting.

Exclusivist: Respondents who agreed with the statement “I believe my faith to be the only one true religion.”

Climate change denial highest amongst exclusivist Christians:

  • Exclusivist Christians show the highest levels of climate change denial, with 31% agreeing with the statement “I don’t believe the global climate is changing.” This contrasts starkly with exclusivist Muslims at 17%. Christians in general are least likely to recognise the harms of climate change, to take personal environmental actions and to vote with environmentalism in mind. Despite their climate denial, exclusivist Christians also hold strong beliefs in their faith’s  requirement to care for the world, indicating influences other than their faith are guiding the outlook on climate change.

Belief in faith’s requirement to care for the world consistent across faiths, yet not translating into consistent action:

  • Hindus, Muslims and Christians consistently believe their faith requires them to care for the world. This is most pronounced among exclusivist Muslims (92%) and exclusivist Christians (82%), showing a consistent belief across faiths that humanity has environmental responsibility. Despite this there is little difference between those of faith and those of no faith whilst faith groups differ consistently and to similar degrees on environmental concern, action and voting. Hindus are the most concerned and active, followed by Muslims and lastly Christians. This indicates cultural and socio-political influences on the different faith groups impacting concern and action rather than doctrine.

Youth more environmentally minded and more likely to connect their faith with environmentalism:

  • Young respondents were most likely to agree with the statement that God is in control and therefore there is no need to worry about climate change; 33% and 34% of the two youngest groups compared with only 11% of the 65+ group. However, younger populations are more likely to agree with the statement that “God is an environmentalist” and are more concerned over and engaged in environmental actions compared to older generations. For instance, 46% of 18-24-year-olds agree that “God is an environmentalist,” compared to just 17% of those aged 65+. This trend indicates a generational shift in integrating religious beliefs with environmental stewardship.

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