Toward holistic corporate sustainability-Developing employees' action competence for sustainability in small and medium-sized enterprises through training

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To advance holistic corporate sustainability in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) requires employees to fully engage in sustainability efforts, which, in return, means to develop employees' action competence for sustainability. Little empirical evidence, however, exists on how to do this considering well-known constraints SMEs face (time, expertise, resources). We present a transdisciplinary project that developed, delivered, and evaluated a sustainability training for the workforce of the Bohlsener Mühle, an SME that has pioneered corporate sustainability in Germany. The training was piloted for the business' apprentices and combined different learning modes to build participants' sustainable action competence. The pre-post evaluation, supported by observations and qualitative interviews, revealed that employees' action competence for sustainability can be fostered through such trainings and is most effective if organizational factors that enable a corporate culture of sustainability are aligned. We conclude that a human-centered and action-oriented approach to training is needed to unleash the full potential of the workforce to advance corporate sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1650-1669
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 05.2023

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Tabea Mallon and Dr. Jan‐Ole Brandt for project support as well as Jan Pranger, Dr. Daniel Fischer, and Dr. Nigel Forrest for guidance on questions pertaining to the research design of this study. AW acknowledges financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (TRANSFORM: Accelerating Sustainability Entrepreneurship Experiments at the Local Scale, 50658‐10029), as well as from the Belmont Forum and the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe (Globally and Locally‐Sustainable Food‐Water‐Energy Innovation in Urban Living Labs [GLOCULL], 0000‐0003‐1599‐2199). Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Business Strategy and The Environment published by ERP Environment and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.