Sustainability governance toward an organizational sustainability culture at German higher education institutions

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Purpose: Higher education institutions, as influential social institutions, play an important role in promoting social responsibility and sustainable practices. However, approaches to implementing sustainable development (SD) in higher education institutions (HEIs) themselves remain fuzzy. One way to achieve holistic embedding can lie in organizational culture. This study aims to examine ways by which internal sustainability governance can promote sustainability culture by using empirical data from German HEIs. Design/methodology/approach: This study uses factor analysis to identify relevant governance indicators. With a regression analysis, this study assesses the indicators’ effects on organizational sustainability culture in HEIs. A moderator analysis tests potential determinants derived from literature and their influence on sustainability governance and sustainability culture. Findings: Operationalizing formalized sustainability governance for holistic implementation reveals a gap in sustainability management at HEIs. This study proposes a model for operationalizing sustainability governance and shows an effect on sustainability culture at the formal organizational level. Originality/value: Based on the operationalization of sustainability governance, this empirical study provides evidence for the development of a holistic approach along a sustainability culture in organizations. This paper proposes a model for operationalization, analyzes multiorganizational data and shows the effects of sustainability governance on formalized organizational sustainability culture. This paper provides a transorganizational perspective for implementing SD following a top-down approach.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-583
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2023

External IDs

ORCID /0000-0002-6891-8948/work/161409075


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Germany, Higher education institution, Organizational sustainability culture, Sustainability governance, University