Curricula is developing from a pure knowledge-based outcome to a more skill-based outcome, with the objective of creating and advancing competencies that meet employer expectations. While the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demand organisations to change practices and adapt to sustainable goals, there is a lack of understanding in how competencies can enhance these goals. The purpose of this paper is twofold: Study 1 explores competencies related to sustainability required in a work force and examines employer perceptions on the existing literature for competencies. Study 2 empirically tests the influence of sustainability scholarship on non-technical competencies in the work force.
A mixed method approach was undertaken. A sample of managers from 39 large Australian organisations participated in the scoping study. This was followed by further interviewing executives from 12 multinational corporations in China to assess the validity of competencies and provide deeper understanding of the issues at hand. The quantitative study analysed a sample of executive responses from 229 multinationals in China using factor and regression analysis to test for the effects of mediation.
The research highlights that the underlying competencies regarding sustainability influences the bigger picture within firms for attaining sustainability. The affective and cognitive growth of sustainability scholarship is governed mainly by a firm’s sustainable values. Core organisational values facilitate the development of non-technical competencies. These relationships and their cumulative effect on competencies provide a theoretical framework for acquiring sustainability within organisations. Employees need sustainability scholarship for enhancing sustainability. Sustainability scholarship reflects high-level learning obtained through universities or training. The research found that non-technical competencies such as professional ethical responsibility mediate between core business competencies and sustainability scholarship.
By exploring employer’s perception of competencies, the study first makes an important contribution in addressing the need to support SDGs by bridging organisational-level competencies and sustainability literacy, which hold significant benefits for practitioners, academia and organisations at large. Second, the theoretical findings strengthen the need for embedding competencies in the curriculum. It conveys the need for sustainability literacy/scholarship to align with organisational training and learning pedagogies, in order to effectively meet industry needs. Third, it provides useful insights on employers’ estimation about workplace competencies and broadens our understanding on the contribution that competencies within organisations make to this end.