Managing sustainability communication on campus: experiences from Lüneburg

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Purpose – Sustainability communication is evolving as a new interdisciplinary field of research and professional practice. The purpose of this paper is to point out the advantage of applying theoretical frameworks and related research instruments for an adequate sustainability communication management on campus. It also aims to highlight the normative constraints and challenges (participation) that differentiate sustainability communication from public relations.

Design/methodology/approach – An interdisciplinary theoretical framework and empirical studies (quantitative/qualitative; audience research) were used for the design of a context-sensitive sustainability communication management concept for the University of Lüneburg-

Findings – Empirical data clearly showed that disciplinary cultures (including their gender specificity) are highly relevant for sustainability attitudes. Continuous visibility of sustainability efforts on campus is critical for people's attitudes and engagement. Campus community members can be characterized by degrees of “sustainability affinity” vs “sustainability distance”. Too much sustainability-campaigning is counterproductive, whereas listening to campus community members' ideas and needs seems appropriate.

Research limitations/implications – There is a need for qualitative data to assess “communication culture”

Practical implications – A balanced theoretically, empirically and normatively grounded communication management is recommended in order to establish a participatory communication culture.

Originality/value – The application of sustainability communication theory, including participation research, in the context of higher education for sustainable development is overdue; thesis: sustainability communication wants to initiate structural changes on campus, but is itself dependent on visible structural change in order to be effective.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)431 - 445
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 25.09.2007