Competencies of Sustainability Professionals: An Empirical Study on Key Competencies for Sustainability

R. Venn*, F. Perez Salgado, Valérie Vandenbussche

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


This paper presents an empirical study on key competencies for sustainable development.
Over a period of two years, we collected empirical data on competencies of senior sustainability
professionals by using an action research approach. Data collection took place in Belgium Flanders via
an elaborate iterative action-reflection process including an interactive workshop, interviews, and an
online survey. Our analysis provides strong empirical evidence for the existence of two complementary
competency clusters, namely sustainability research competencies and sustainability intervention
competencies. Together they enable the profound analysis and understanding of sustainability issues
and ensure the ability to devise solutions and foster change towards sustainability. Furthermore, we
shed a first light on the interaction of these competency clusters and their link with the practitioners’
topical knowledge and lived experience. This study bridges the divergence in literature between
theoretically and empirically driven research and offers novel insights on sustainability competencies
for the fields of sustainability science, human resource management, and higher education.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4916
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • Human resource management
  • Practitioners
  • Sustainability
  • higher education
  • human resource management
  • key competences
  • key competencies
  • lived experience
  • practitioners
  • professional
  • professionals
  • sustainability
  • sustainable development
  • transformation


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