In a paper the sustainability competences are investigated through the eyes of professional practitioners in the field of sustainability. The paper also presents empirical data that have been created using an action research approach.

The design of the study consists of two workshops, in which professional practitioners in interaction with each other and the facilitators are invited to explore and reflect on the specific knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours necessary to conduct change processes successfully towards sustainability in a variety of business and professional contexts. The research focuses on the competences associated with these change processes to devise, propose and conduct appropriate interventions that address sustainability issues.

Labelled ‘intervention competence’, this ability comprises an interlocking set of knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours that include:

  • appreciating the importance of (trying to) reaching decisions or interventions;
  • being able to learn from lived experience of practice and to connect such learning to one’s own scientific knowledge;
  • being able to engage in political-strategic thinking, deliberations and actions, related to different perspectives; the ability for showing goal-oriented, adequate action;
  • adopting and communicating ethical practices during the intervention process;
  • being able to cope with the degree of complexity;
  • being able to translate stakeholder diversity into collectively produced interventions (actions) towards sustainability. Moreover, this competence has to be practised in contexts of competing values, non-technical interests and power relations.

The article concludes with recommendations for future research and practice.

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Perez Salgado, F., Abbott, D. & Wilson, G. Sustain Sci (2017). doi:10.1007/s11625-017-0439-z