Sustainability Skills and Sustainable Natives: Key Competencies and Maturity Model for Sustainability Management

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Ulrich Lichtenthaler


Sustainability and ESG criteria, i.e. environment, social, and governance, are essential strategic drivers, especially because of the circular economy and a new generation of ‘sustainable natives’ among the Generation Z. In light of firms’ varying performance in managing sustainability, this conceptual paper develops a maturity model for sustainability management with five maturity levels: awareness, efficiency, transparency, ecosystem, and innovation. A further sixth level goes beyond most firms’ present aspirations in managing sustainability, but it may become important in the future. Additionally, the key skills that companies and employees need at different maturity levels are discussed along with implications for sustainability trainings and assessments as well as human resources management and ethics. These skills may provide the source of sustainability-based core competencies, and they help to explain interfirm differences in managing sustainability, positainability, and digitainability. Finally, the framework highlights innovation and transformation in the context of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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