Perspectives on Sustainability Governance from Universities in the USA, UK, and Germany: How do Change Agents Employ Different Tools to Alter Organizational Cultures and Structures?

  • Felix SpiraEmail author
  • Valentin Tappeser
  • Arian Meyer


Previous studies on organizational change processes toward sustainability at universities have mainly focused on which structures—sustainability visions, policies, or governance mechanisms—should be altered to advance these processes. Relatively few studies however, have focused on how this structural transformation is promoted by different change agents, as well as which tools they employ. Understanding this process is important to understand the underlying mechanisms of organizational transformations toward sustainability. This research tries to contribute to the existing literature and models, by examining how change agents utilize different tools—policies, missions, visions, etc.,—to alter existing organizational structures and cultures. Qualitative data from three case studies in the US (University of California Santa Cruz), the UK (University of Greenwich) and Germany (Lüneburg University) has been collected and analyzed to this end. The findings suggest that different groups of change agents are responsible to advance the changes at each of the three institutions under scrutiny, including researchers, operational staff, higher management, and students. These actors mobilized different tools to advance sustainability. The choice of tools is mainly determined by their position within the organization and personal background. Moreover, the promotion of certain tools is facilitated through outside actors. However, the interaction between these outside actors and the change agents needs to be further examined.


Change Agents Organizational Change Processes Leuphana University Sustainable Transformation Sustainability Officer 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.rootAbility/Maastricht University Green OfficeMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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