The role of individual sustainability competences in eco-design building projects

Wim Lambrechts*, Cees J. Gelderman, Janjaap Semeijn, Elles Verhoeven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Sustainability has become an undeniable aspect of corporate dealings this day and age. The advent of corporate social responsibility as a morally sound issue has been caught up by market-oriented, profit-driven motivations for ‘greening’ the business. Also, new generations of professionals are growing up more environmentally aware than ever and eager to put their beliefs and attitudes into practice. This study explores the role of individual sustainability competences in eco-design building projects of small- and medium sized enterprises in the netherlands. Building projects of multiple case companies have been investigated, in search of sustainability competences needed to deal with issues and problems during the process. A total number of 39 incidents were analyzed for the role of individual sustainability competences. Individual sustainability competences played a specific role in different phases and characteristic aspects of the building projects: the initial inspiration for eco-design; project development; and the involvement of stakeholders. However, not all individual sustainability competences appeared during the process. The most apparent competences were related to strategic management and action, diversity, interdisciplinarity, and interpersonal aspects. Systems thinking competence and foresighted thinking competence occurred considerably less in the incidents, while normative competence was only mentioned once. Respondents choose to merge normative dimensions of their behavior with the strategic and action-oriented dimensions. These findings confirm earlier theoretical conceptualizations of a virtuous competence for sustainability, and leads to further questions about the specific role and definition of normative competence in business and (higher) education settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1631-1641
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2019


  • Circularity
  • Individual sustainability competences
  • Eco-design
  • Small-and medium sized enterprises
  • Sustainable building
  • Virtuous competence

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