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Journal Article

The Status quo of Knowledge Management and Sustainability Knowledge  pp136-148

Beate Klingenberg, Helen N. Rothberg

© Apr 2020 Volume 18 Issue 2, Editor: Eduardo Tome, pp91 - 197

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The United Nations (UN) 2030 agenda for sustainable development issues an urgent call to transition to sustainable business models and life styles. Outlining seventeen concrete sustainable development goals (SDGs), organizations and individuals are encouraged to actively participate (United Nations, 2015). However, as of the 2019 report on the SDGs, progress is slow. Organizations that aspire to be economically viable as well as socially and environmentally responsible global citizens, need to understand what sustainability means and how to institutionalize its principles. This paper posits that some of the underlying reasons for slow progress are lack of full understanding of the required knowledge and its systemic nature, as well as potentially insufficient knowledge management processes. It proposes that sustainability knowledge learning should include three “DCA” steps: 1) What to know: identify which knowledge is needed (DEFINE); 2) How to learn : develop strategies to identify sources and learning strategies for the requisite sustainability knowledge (COLLECT); 3) How to use sustainability knowledge: develop knowledge management practices that enable absorption and institutionalization (ACT). Comparing the DCA model to other sustainability knowledge management models reveals that internal processes are emphasized (ACT). Fewer models consider the second step, COLLECT. The necessity to identify knowledge needs, DEFINE is almost entirely absent. Given the complex nature of sustainability knowledge, it appears that currently, knowledge management practices may be inadequately designed to support organizations in their transformational change towards sustainability and in the development of required stakeholder partnerships. Said systemic nature is also ill reflected in knowledge management research for sustainability. Further limiting is a lack of a clear definition of sustainability knowledge. This paper is a call for research to establish a clear view of what sustainability knowledge is, and based on that, a more detailed development of effective knowledge management strategies.


Keywords: sustainable development goals (SDG), sustainability knowledge, sustainable development knowledge, knowledge management process, systems thinking, learning process


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