Multilevel Barrier and Driver Analysis to Improve Sustainability Implementation Strategies: Towards Sustainable Operations in Institutions of Higher Education

Anne-Karen Hueske, Edeltraud Guenther*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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In practice what they preach in research and education, higher education institutions (HEIs) must consider economic, ecological, and social impacts in their quest for sustainable operations. We contribute to the understanding of sustainable transformation and responsible management through the development of a dual analysis of barriers and drivers to derive implementation strategies. In drawing on stakeholder theory, dynamic capabilities, and organisational psychology, we proposed a multilevel analysis of barriers and drivers to identify their manifestations in relation to the external environmental, organisational, group, and individual (EOGI) levels. Using sustainable operations as an illustrating example, we demonstrated how the multilevel barrier and driver analysis, as specified by the theory-driven EOGI subcategories, improved implementation strategies. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review combined with a content analysis, after which, we synthesised the barriers and drivers of 56 empirical studies, derived 30 strategies for sustainability, and compared them to recent review results. As a result, we have identified avenues for future research and implications for policy and practice. Where current research tends to place more emphasis on environmental impact in comparison to other sustainability dimensions, we call for a more comprehensive multilevel barrier and driver analysis to acknowledge sustainability as a multidimensional and interrelated construct, while accounting for the characteristics of HEIs and the members of the organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125899
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Multilevel barrier and driver analyis
  • Sustainable operations
  • Higher education institution
  • Barrier
  • Driver
  • Sustainability transformation

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