Sustainability Competences Framework: A Tool for Business Growth
In January 2022, the European Commission published The European Sustainability Competence Framework or GreenComp.
GreenComp identifies a set of sustainability competences to feed into education and training programs to help learners develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes that promote ways to think, plan and act with empathy, responsibility, and care for the planet’s and the public’s health. It also aims towards business growth and development as the niche of sustainability-driven businesses is growing fast.
At a policy level, GreenComp is a policy action derived from the European Green Deal as a catalyst to promote learning on environmental sustainability in the European Union.
GreenComp provides a common ground to learners and guidance to educators, specifying a consensual definition of what sustainability as a competence entails. It was created to support education and training programs, including lifelong learning. Also, it may be used by corporate trainers to translate the sustainability strategy of their companies in training content and programs that may help the employees and other stakeholders to act for sustainability. This will help learners become systemic and critical thinkers, as well as develop agency, and form a knowledge basis required for caring about the planet’s present and future state.
Sustainability competences among employees may enhance innovation and adaptability at an organizational level and may also support the CSR strategy.
Main concepts definition
Sustainability is defined as “prioritising the needs of all life forms and of the planet by ensuring that human activity does not exceed planetary boundaries.”
A sustainability competence empowers learners to embody sustainability values and embrace complex systems to take or request action that restores and maintains ecosystem health and enhances justice, generating visions for sustainable futures.
Learning for environmental sustainability aims to nurture a sustainability mindset from childhood to adulthood with the understanding that humans are part of and depend on nature. Learners are equipped with knowledge, skills, and attitudes that help them become agents of change and contribute individually and collectively to shaping futures within planetary boundaries.
The European Sustainability Competence framework
GreenComp consists of four competence ‘areas’ that correspond to the definition of sustainability; each competence area contains three competences. In total, there are 12 sustainability ‘competences’ that, taken together, make up the building blocks of the sustainability competence for all people.
As illustrated in Figure 1 below, the competence areas and competences are numbered for references purposes; this does not imply a sequence of acquisition or hierarchy. All 12 competences are equally important. As such, learners are encouraged to develop all of them.
The four competence areas are intertwined, and sustainability is a competency that encompasses all four. The 12 sustainability competences are also linked and interconnected and should be considered as a whole. While we encourage learners to acquire the 12 competencies, they are not needed to have the highest level of proficiency in all of them, nor do they need to have the same level of proficiency in all of them. Indeed, GreenComp suggests that sustainability as a competency is comprised of 12 components.
Each of the 12 competences is further described in learning outcomes, in terms of Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes. There are 169 learning outcomes in total.
How businesses can use GreenComp
GreenComp can be used in many ways in the business environment, especially through training programs targeting the employees, as well as mentoring and coaching programs targeting the leadership level. Here are some examples:
- Development and execution of CSR strategies. GreenComp may provide a framework for a holistic, integrated approach.
- Development and execution of Innovation strategies. GreenComp may set a common working framework for discussions and initiatives where any employee who wants to contribute can do so.
- Business development. GreenComp can serve as a compass in finding new business opportunities and new business partners in the niche of sustainability-driven businesses.