Are Religions becoming Green? Faith-Based Environmentalism in Switzerland
Third-party funded project
Project title Are Religions becoming Green? Faith-Based Environmentalism in Switzerland
Principal Investigator(s) Köhrsen, Jens
Organisation / Research unit Zentrum für Religion, Wirtschaft und Politik,
Zentrum für Religion, Wirtschaft und Politik / Religion und Wirtschaft (Köhrsen)
Project start 01.10.2020
Probable end 30.09.2022
Status Active

Scholarship on religion and ecology highlights religious “greening” processes, meaning that religious traditions and communities become more environmentally aware and engaged over time. By means of this “greening,” religions can contribute significantly to environmental sustainability: they can spread pro-environmental worldviews and values to their members, advocate for environmental protection in the public, and undertake environmental projects (e.g., energy-efficient refurbishments, recycling).

Although the topic has increasingly received attention in recent years, there is still little expertise about religious environmentalism at the congregational level. While research has more strongly addressed the membership level (e.g., environmental attitudes of followers of particular religions), only few studies tackle religious environmentalism at the congregational level. Yet, research at the congregational level is particularly important, given that congregations constitute important brokers of environmental engagement between the macro-level (e.g., leadership/religious experts) and the micro-level of a given religion (i.e., members). Congregations can disseminate “green” theologies and environmental programs, which the leadership initiated, among the local membership (“top-down greening”). Vice versa, congregations can promote religious grass-roots initiatives, which started at the local congregational level, towards the leadership (“bottom-up greening”) or expand them towards other local congregations (“horizontal greening”).

This project will identify (a) to what extent congregations in Switzerland are environmentally engaged, (b) what types of environmental engagement they undertake, and (c) under what circumstances they are most likely to be environmentally engaged. For this, the research team will conduct a survey about the environmental engagement of congregations. The project will contribute to the increasing international debates about religion and sustainability transitions by exploring the mechanisms of this engagement.


Financed by Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

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