Meredith Turner
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SIOP UN Committee: Help us Identify How I-O Psychology Informs the Sustainable Development Goals

Julie Olson-Buchanan, Jenna Van Fossen, Kalaani Young, Kyle Lyman, Samuel Nunez, Zayna Osborne, Sabrina Wilson, and Emily Chavez, California State University, Fresno

SIOP UN Committee: Mathian Osicki, Julie Olson-Buchanan, Lise Saari, Nabila Sheikh, John Scott, Lori Foster, Deborah Rupp, Mary O’Neill Berry, Walter Reichman, Dan Maday, and Aimee Lace


Are you interested in using I-O psychology to make a difference in the world? Do you find SIOP’s work with the United Nations intriguing and are looking for a way to get involved? If so, the SIOP UN team invites you to consider working on a new initiative to identify how the science and practice of I-O psychology can inform work on the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 United Nations SDGs are a “universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity” (United Nations Development Programme, n.d.) and includes such goals as eradicating poverty and hunger and ensuring health/well-being and quality education, among others.


As an NGO with special consultative status to the United Nations, SIOP is called on to respond to this rallying call through our expertise in I-O psychology. However, our field does not traditionally categorize our research and practice in terms of the areas identified in the SDGs and, as such, the SIOP UN Team has worked on translating how our field might align with and support the SDGs.


To aid in this effort, we are launching a new initiative. Specifically, we are interested in the creation of annotated bibliographies for each of the 17 SDGs. Such bibliographies will enable SIOP to be better prepared to weigh in on position papers (for which we often have only a few days to respond) and aid in the identification of I-O psychology expertise and best practices as it relates to a particular SDG. In addition, we believe it will facilitate the growth of our field in the direction of humanitarian work psychology by identifying gaps in the literature and stimulating additional research in I-O psychology that serves or supports the United Nations mandate.


In the remainder of the article, we describe the process and preliminary findings for the first annotated bibliography we developed. It focuses on SDG #2, which is to “end hunger, achieve food security, and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” (United Nations Development Programme, n.d.).


Process Used for Pilot Annotated Bibliography


Form Workgroup


There are a number of existing workgroups (e.g., research labs, work colleagues) that would work well for this initiative, or you can form a new one for this purpose. We formed a group with seven undergraduates and the first author at California State University, Fresno. The undergraduates included Psychology and Business majors, all of whom had taken an Introduction to I-O Psychology course and had an interest in the field. However, the possibilities for forming groups are wide-open and can be a great way to team build within a local I-O group, work colleagues in different disciplines, or graduate students.


Select SDG


We selected the 2nd SDG because hunger is a critical concern in our region. Other groups might select an SDG that resonates with them or is most closely linked with their areas of practice or research. To select an SDG, please see a list of the 17 SDGs, which are available on the SIOP United Nations ( page, and inform Julie Olson-Buchanan ( of your plans to ensure that groups do not duplicate efforts.




At first blush, it is hard to see the link between our research and practice and such goals as eradicating hunger. This is where brainstorming in the group is key. Some prompts that helped us identify potential literature included “why would or should organizations/employees care about this issue?” and “how might something I-O psychology does well relate to a solution for this societal issue?”


Search for Literature and Complete Initial Annotated Bibliography Entries


After brainstorming some ideas, we divided up the areas and individuals searched the literature (including journals and conference papers) in traditional I-O psychology areas as well as related fields, and examined write-ups of relevant projects in organizations. It is important to take a broad approach here, within psychology and related fields, particularly given that there is (generally) limited research available. To keep the annotations consistent, we used a template that included the following components: (a) Description and summary of the study’s or project’s purpose and approach (method), (b) summary of main conclusions, (c) source’s link to the SDG, and (d) Future research suggestions.


Revise and Brainstorm Structure of the Annotation


By posting the annotated bibliographies on a shared drive, we were able to revise and modify the annotated bibliographies. A key part of the process included meeting again to discuss the findings and brainstorm additional directions to search.


General Findings


Regular, secure access to nutritious food is a key component to improving current and future conditions for our society, particularly with respect to the development of a global workforce. As noted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2015) “Hunger and undernutrition mean less-productive individuals, who are more prone to disease and thus often unable to earn more and improve their livelihoods. This, in turn, hinders progress in alleviating extreme poverty and fighting hunger—particularly as labor is the principal asset held by the poor” (p. 27). As such, our workgroup identified two general areas of I-O research and practice that can serve to inform the United Nations Mandate relating to SDG 2. This includes the literature relating to how food security and nutrition is a critical factor for the internal functioning and well-being of organizations and the CSR literature and related publications on private organizations’ efforts to address hunger issues.


Food insecurity and nutrition directly affect worker and organizational well-being. Consider, for example, the high number of food insecure workers in a developed country, such as the United States. According to a 2017 USDA report, 12.3% of U.S. households (or 1 in 8) qualified as food insecure. A 2009 report found that 68% percent of households with food-insecure children had at least one adult working full-time, and 78% had at least one adult working full or part time (United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2009). Fifty-four percent of households that utilize Feeding America food banks have at least one member who has worked in the past year, and 20% had members employed throughout the year (Babic et al., 2015). As such, there appears to be a significant number of workers suffering from food insecurity. Moreover, a healthy diet is more expensive than an unhealthy one, at a difference of $1.15 to $1.94 per day (cf. Rao, Afshin, Singh, & Mozaffarian, 2013, for a review). Research indicates that in households that experience food insecurity, adults tend to sacrifice quality and quantity of food, saving food for children (Coates, et al., 2006) in part because existing food programs for children do not appear to be sufficient (Pickett, Michaelson & Davison, 2015). Although the percentage of workers in developing and developed countries varies around the world (cf. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2015), it is clear that hunger is a significant problem for a sizable number of adults who are in the workforce, as well as for those who are not in the workforce.


Consequences of food insecurity in the workplace include outcomes associated with sleeplessness, worry, guilt, alienation, and psychological strain (Coates et al., 2016). Working hours are a particularly critical time for eating and nutrition (Castellari & Berning, 2016). Yet, some of the most food insecure adults have limited access to healthy, affordable food while at work, underscoring the need for healthy, inexpensive (or free) food at or near the workplace for a significant portion of lower wage earners. Indeed, although research on adults in the work context is limited, healthy eating is related to several positive outcomes including affect (White, Horvath & Conner, 2013) and performance (Edwards, Mauch & Winkelman, 2011).


Organizations may engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts that are designed to address hunger or nutrition in their local or global community, such as manufacturers donating overproduction to food banks, raising funds for hunger relief, or workers volunteering at food pantries as part of an outreach effort. One particularly compelling example is ConAgra’s five prong strategic initiative to improve children’s food security in the United States (Knowlton, Phillip, & Knowlton, 2012). Research has identified several positive outcomes of CSR efforts for participating organizations, such as affective commitment (Mueller, Hattrup, Spiees, & Lin-Hi, 2012), prosocial behavior (Thornton & Rupp, 2016), employee recruitment (Catano & Hines, 2016), and positive consumer perceptions (Du, Bhattacharya & Sanker, 2010). Yet, it is important to consider the context for CSR initiatives, as there is some evidence that consumer perceptions of CSR in developing countries may not share the same outcomes (Arli & Lasmono, 2010), and CSR initiatives that are imposed upon developing countries may lead to complicating issues within an area of need (Khan, Westwood, & Boje, 2010).


Organizations can also contribute to humanitarian efforts and societal well-being by sharing their expertise. For example, a number of studies in related fields have examined how business expertise in logistics (Kovacs & Spens, 2007) can improve access to food for those affected by disaster (Van Wassenhove, 2006). The common theme of such research is that the viability of such private sector–humanitarian partnerships center on making a compelling case for the consequences of CSR, an area in which I-O psychology has considerable expertise (e.g., Knowlton & Phillips, 2012; Thornton & Rupp, 2016).


Future Research Areas


We identified a number of important areas for future research. In particular, there is little research on food insecurity and its effects on job performance and health of workers in developed countries, and virtually no research on these variables in developing countries. Interventions in the workplace, such as access to inexpensive, healthy food should be examined, particularly with respect to key outcome variables such as safety, health, and performance. Relatedly, the relation between food insecurity and employment-readiness has not been examined, an issue that might relate to a cycle of poverty and has implications for available labor pools. There is a substantial amount of research on the antecedents and consequences of CSR. Another area for future research in this area could include how the findings of CSR research in I-O psychology can be used to facilitate the creation and expansion of private sector–humanitarian partnerships.




We found our work on the annotated bibliography to be very informative and will hopefully serve as a model for the additional work needed to cover the remaining SDGs. It helped us see I-O psychology through a different lens and made us better appreciate how I-O research and practice can be translated to address and inform actions needed to accomplish the SDGs. The annotated bibliographies will be stored on a shared drive for the United Nations team and will be critical resources for informing SIOP position papers as well as SIOP’s weighing in on policy making, and special projects that serve the United Nations mandate. If you are interested in creating an annotated bibliography on another SDG for the UN, please contact Julie Olson-Buchanan at We look forward to expanding our partnerships within SIOP to help make a difference in the world through I-O psychology.




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Babic, M., Dys, T., Jake, M., O'Leary, M., Waxman, E., & Yarrow, A. (2015). From paycheck to pantry: Hunger in working America. Feeding America and Oxfam Report.


Castellari, E., & Berning, J. P. (2016). Can providing a morning healthy snack help to reduce hunger during school time? Experimental evidence from an elementary school in Connecticut. Appetite106, 70-77.


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Du, S., Bhattacharya, C. B., & Sen, S. (2010). Maximizing business returns to corporate social responsibility (CSR): The role of CSR communication. International Journal of Management Reviews12(1), 8-19.


Edwards, J. U., Mauch, L., & Winkelman, M. R. (2011). Relationship of nutrition and physical activity behaviors and fitness measures to academic performance for sixth graders in a midwest city school district. Journal of School Health81(2), 65-73.


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