Learning to embed sustainability skills and knowledge in the workplace- Final Project Report.

Joanne Tippett, Valerie Farnsworth, Fraser How, Ebenhaezer Le Roux, Pete Mann, Graeme Sherriff

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s CEO, set the stage for Tesco to be a leader in creating a low-carbon economy, saying in 2007: “We are going to have to re-think the way we live and work.” This report describes the findings of a research project funded by the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) entitled ‘Scaling-up’, which took place between August 2009 and January 2010. This report has been produced for the SCI and Tesco, with the hope that it will also be helpful to others who seek organisational change towards more sustainable practices.Overview of ‘Scaling-up’ research projectOverall aim of the projectTo find effective ways to embed new thinking that maximises people’s understanding of sustainability and changes in behaviour, in the context of ‘training the trainers’This initiative followed directly from an earlier nine-month SCI project entitled ‘Sustainability Skills in the Workplace’ which had as its key objective: To identify effective training and communication methods to enable people to understand sustainability issues and take action – and to implement and assess a learning pilot which delivers this in Tesco. (Full report available from www.sci.manchester.ac.uk.) Feedback from Tesco staff involved in the Sustainability Skills project was positive, demonstrating significant shifts in attitude and awareness, and increased motivation to take action towards a sustainable future. The Scaling-up project was designed to build on this, and explore how to spread and embed sustainability learning throughout the organisation. Sustainability action researchTraining Tesco staff in Stores and Head OfficeOverall, both projects have involved 78 members of staff (30 in Stores and 48 in Head Office) attending training, with 105 additional members of staff being interviewed or attending focus groups. Five training courses have taken place, three in the earlier Sustainability Skills project and two during this Scaling-up project. Training was carried out in Stores and in Head Office in both projects. The research team delivered the training. A ‘new’ sustainability frameworkThe basis of the training was a whole-system framework for understanding and decision-making around sustainability. This framework draws from decades of previous development, including The Natural Step, Cradle-to-Cradle, Industrial Ecology, PP4SD and the Principal Investigator’s earlier work. New tools and processes were developed and tested in the action research. The framework became known as ‘the RoundView’. The RoundView is a positive, whole-systems approach to sustainability. The motivation for its development was to make the ideas accessible to staff at all levels. The hope was to increase not just participants’ capacity to act, but also their motivation and enthusiasm for change, and their ability to communicate effectively with each other towards this end. Interactive and hands-on learning approachAn important aspect of making the ideas more accessible and easy to communicate was developing clear, simple graphics and hands-on learning tools to engage learners with the ideas. Several rounds of development and feedback have enabled clarification of key points. This has built on open source development of learning tools, which the Principal Investigator started after attending a Natural Step course in 1997. Researching how to ‘scale-up’In addition to developing and piloting the RoundView training course, the current project explored and tested mechanisms for ‘scaling-up’ sustainability learning, to encourage and enable rapid spread throughout a large organisation. In-depth focus groups and interviews were combined with a small-scale train-the-trainer pilot in Stores and Head Office. This was further informed through secondary research and the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherUniversity of Manchester, Sustainable Consumption Institute
Number of pages180
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameSustainable Production and Distribution Systems
PublisherSustainable Consumption Institute


  • sustainability
  • capacity building
  • diffusion of innovation
  • skills development
  • change management
  • sustainable consumption
  • transition management
  • industrial ecology


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