Conceptualizing Sustainability Leadership Competences in Higher Education
Paper i proceeding, 2017

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the ongoing debate regarding what sustainability competences should be fostered in higher education, and argue for the need for further conceptualization of sustainability leadership competences – in order to potentiate further empowerment of students partaking in sustainability education based in engagement in real-world challenges. Approach: The paper reviews the current state of sustainability competence theory, and presents a study based in literature review of leadership concepts associated with sustainability. The identified competences are contextualized in the educational practice at Chalmers Challenge Lab – a student-centered transition arena where international master students undertake their master theses in a multi-stakeholder environment. Findings: Two competence categories – leading oneself and enabling/facilitating collective leadership – are established from competences found in leadership literature. The conceptualization of the categories is guided by a case study of Challenge Lab, and could consequently be considered relevant in a sustainability education context. Major similarities between competences advocated for in sustainability competences theory and in sustainability leadership theory are noted. Practical implication: The leadership competence categories could further the potential of sustainability competences theory in guiding curricula development of higher sustainability education in general and sustainability leadership programs in particular. Moreover, supporting self-leadership and collective leadership of students could potentially facilitate the acquisition of other sustainability competences. Originality/value: The study contributes to the process of conceptualizing leadership competences in a sustainability education setting, an area where little research has been made.

Higher education

Sustainability competences

Sustainability education

Sustainability leadership


Oskar Hagvall Svensson

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Entrepreneurship and Strategy

International Sustainability Transitions (IST) Conference 2017, June 19-21 Göteborg Sweden




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Innovation och entreprenörskap

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