Konrad Kutt                                                                                                  August, 10th 2020


Green Management


What is Green Management?  First, before we explain what proactive, aggressive “Green-Management” is, or what „management for sustainable development“ could mean and represents, and which competences are required, it is appropriate to note what “high quality management” is. Let us revisit management concepts from the mid 80ies developed in the fields of humanistic and systemic psychology (Rogers) and the paradigm shift as described by Capra in his book The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture.

By „Good management“ we refer to any kind of leadership on any level or sector, irrespective of whether leadership is applied in businesses, scientific projects, government or education and training at schools and university. Here we speak about “Quality Management”, Good Governance, or about “good work”.

One example: The highest quality properly exercised craftsmanship is considered a prerequisite for economically viable, ecologically successful and socially just actions in a global world. 

When a construction worker or an architect neglects or ignores the laws of building physics or of the laws of static stability, thermal insulation or moisture protection knowingly or unknowingly (for example, by sloppiness) serious structural damage, even early collapse of the building can be the result. Accordingly such forms of „good practice and craftsmanship“ can be also applied to the activities of teaching, research, leadership, governance, etc..  (Richard Sennett).The radical paradigm shift in science is another precursor of today’s Green Management. These new paradigms focus on interdisciplinarity, holism, increasing complexity, globalization, process and network-relatedness. Additional factors were the growing shortage of the resources, time, money, raw materials. The postulate of holism, for example in pedagogy, but also in the management, has significant consequences, because the division into school subjects is obsolete if you structure it rigidly and arbitrarily by content as situations you face in life can not be treated appropriately. Instead learning preferably takes place in more or less complex projects und coherent areas of sense-making. This results in an appreciation of learning as part of the overall cognitive, affective, emotional and psychomotoric areas of learning, as part of an all-encompassing personal development. A building or living-quarter is in this way understood as a socio-technical, ecological system (oikos) which has to be “green” to a large degree already for conventional professional reasons.

The shift away from thinking in linear structures and hierarchies will cause the teachers to be no longer just teachers or pupils, but someone who is in a dialogue, who will be taught while he is teaching and vice versa. So they all take part together and become responsible for a process in which they grow (P. Freire). 

Learning takes on a process-character through project-organization, decentralized information-gathering and decision-making as well as through feedback loops. The possibility and needto transfer these insights to create a qualitatively new and higher quality management is obvious. Organizations with hierarchical and much too specialized work-processes have proven to be inefficient, too bureaucratic and demotivating. A management of self-organizing process chains, of flexible projects, can more easily adapt to t changes which take place with accelerating pace. The information needs to be delivered to  where it is needed and should not be delayed, obstructed or distorted by hierarchies.

From the metaphor of the network arises a twofold consequence, both on the level of content as well as at the level of acquisition of knowledge. Contents from various disciplines have to be connected and related in a nonlinear and network-like format. Learning processes must be designed in a way that allows and expedites interrelated establishment of cross-disciplinary knowledge and encourages action. Network organizations are characterized by flat hierarchies, a high degree of local autonomy, self-organization and personal responsibility. This results, for example, in semi-autonomous work groups, manufacturing cells and flexible adaptation to local circumstances and changes in the environment (Doppler and Lauterburg).

In essence, we are faced with the need of a radical structural transition of organizations and their management. Because network organization in nature has proven clearly superior and has evolved over millions of years, the network model could very well help us make sense of Natures ”green management”, and enable insight for why human organizations should adopt these principles. 

Change Management 

The above just briefly outlined paradigm shift in the field of organizing and teaching, which, because it is largely transferred from the model of nature, can be understood as “Green Management” and leads to a new understanding of management, a „management of change“ or change management.

It can be said that nothing is as sure to be happening as change. Good Management or Green Management is primarily a management which masters continuous and increasingly rapid change. Managements which are only anxious to secure their own personal careers and to reinforce and make permanent the status-quo keep people from making innovative contributions and impede rather than promote adaption of  real futures. 

There is little contribution to the development  of functional teams and motivation and identity-building of employees. These managers miss their mission and fail at tasks to design and manage change.


New Green Deal 

With an “ecologisation” and globalization of society and economy, with the new overall concept of „sustainable development“ a new creative power is emerging which reaches beyond the challenges of conventional organizations and management. The „New Green Deal“ goes hand in hand with an upheaval (wrap) of the society towards radical energy and resource efficiency, renewable energy and renewable resources, towards an integrated product policy, to new environmental and health-conscious consumption patterns, towards a circular flow recycling economy (cradle to cradle), towards environmentally sensitive tourism (gentle tourism) etc. The service sector is expanding, the decentralized structures (units) are strengthened, the above cited Culture of Maintenance is gaining importance, the added value remains in the region. As a net-gain more jobs will be created, more than are lost by the revitalization and renaturization of the old dismantled economy.

The economic sector and management react upon these initially threatening challenges with the following patterns of reaction, although a wealth of technical, regulatory, market, awareness and fiscal measures point towards paths of sustainable business:

1. Defensive-negative patterns of Management

– Delay, refusal, failure to satisfy regulatory requirements
– Complaints about government regulations and bureaucracy (red tape)
– Sanctions must not be feared
– Balancing between any penalties and saving by non-compliance
– Displacement and denial of the ecological and social consequences
– A reference to the “others” and the „public“
– The externalization of costs

2. Reactive, rather defensive Behaviour,

– Action under performance and deadline pressure
– Meeting the minimum requirements
– Short-term response in case of need
– Cure of only symptoms
– No forward-looking and planning
– Economization of ecology through savings
– End-of-the-pipe

3. Offensive affirmative, pro-sustainable patterns of behavior (Green Management)

– Use all possible advantages of sustainable behavior and action
– Innovative, qualitative sophisticated and demanding products and services
– Voluntary participation in sustainability management and labels
– Integration of sustainability into the corporate culture
– Exceeding the targets of current environmental compliance requirements
– Future-oriented qualification understanding
– Stakeholder and public participation and exercising influence
– Pioneering role for future generations
– Sustainability-related education and training of staff

Good and Green Management


From my point of view two things come together, which ideally complement each other: Good management described in terms of new management concepts and proactive, sustainable management (Green Management). 

The first question is how, on the basis of a (knowingly or unknowingly conscious or ignorant „Bad Management“ with a defensive attitude,  can a transformation towards an offensive-oriented green management be initialized. Thus, changes in behavior patterns affected. Here the quote from Thorndike „As much as 95 % of what we do each day is done from habit“.We need to take into account that changes in the social fabric result from diverging interests and ideological debates/discourses.

Behind the obvious scene, in hindsight, we find forces of insistence and adaption which are governed by emotions and are often on a subliminal level. In all cases, changes take place. A development which is due, will prevail. The pressure is increased and the price to be paid for the necessary changes increases. 

Training Concepts for Green Management therefore have little chance if they are isolated from the situation and context, They definitely need to be part of a much more holistic, integrated corporate culture and its ’sustainable organizational development „, because the “habits“ of the company have to be included in form of a learning organization. Success will also depend on the externally set incentives and framework conditions –  and what forms of control or sanction are available.

A second question remains: How can we in the education at universities or in vocational training (in Germany a so-called dual system of vocational training) raise the necessary awareness and develop the necessary skills and competences for Green Management?
The answer is also difficult.

Soft skills, good for all modern organizations, are:

– Strategic competence, i.e. complex understanding of systemic relationships, indentifying the dynamics of change and developing from there alternative paths and options

– Social competence, dealing with people openly and easy without creating complicated circumstances, to motivate them and have them participate in teams

– Process competences, i.e. the ability to make decisions and act on the basis of incomplete information and in view of inadequate circumstances, like missising capabilities in the environment and of the co-workers.

– Ability to develop and maintain empathy, attentive listening, openness, honesty, self-confidence, courage and bravery

– Chaos competence, ability to cope with increasing complexity of conflicts, crises and contradictions.

– Personal competence, selections of key personnel, allies and lead-persons and opinion leaders.

Skills with relevance for green management in a more closely connected, stricter sense, are:

– Selection and use of sustainability indicators to assess the operational performance

– Knowledge and reflection of various quality and sustainability management systems for enterprises

– Ability to sustainability communication both internally and externally, e.g. with stakeholders, design and publication of sustainability reports

– Product-line analysis for environmental and social evaluations, e.g. supliere or subcontractor  products and concepts of recycling and disposal.

– Resource and material-flow management as part of corporate and intercompany cross plant efficiency strategies. 

Please note that the terms of competences, capacities, skills and capabilities “own” very different meanings and are used in different ways in German and English and that therefore some more attention should be given to the above text to make proper sense. Some work has been invested in the context of Gestaltungs Competences (Design, Gestalt or Futures Competences) in Germany in the Context of Education for Sustainable Development which needs to be reported and included at another place.

Competence Acquisition for Green Management

There are now a number of master’s degrees in the field of sustainability and quality management, there are a number of environmental management tools which can be applied to enterprises and implemented in towards and in the sense of sustainable and sustained organizational learning organization, namely EFQM, TQM, or CSR. This needs further elaboration at another place. It would be a separate article to compare and evaluate the different approaches in higher education and more general in the field of life-long learning.

In the field of vocational training I have developed and tested  a concept under the name „sustainable junior companies“ which helps young people in their own miniature shops and plants, but under the umbrella and auspices of an existing sustainability minded company gain action-oriented insight into „entrepreneurial thinking and action for a sustainable economy“ (Entrepreneurship ) and to acquire relevant competencies (vg. www. inbak.de) (http://www.inbak.de/index.php?article_id=24&clang=0)

The concept of sustainable junior companies or sustainable pupil companies is an educational, didactic approach based on adventure and experiential learning and the principle of „complete-cycle action“, which includes self-informing personal investigations, planning, decision-making, implementation and evaluation. Those in the team and in real project situations who have experienced and reflected upon „Green Management“ are more likely to be able to draw on transferable competences than someone who, for example, has only acquired abstract and nomologic knowledge.


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Please contact:

Konrad  Kutt
Institute for Sustainability in Education, Work an Culture, Berlin

0049-30-891 51 24,  mail: konrad@kutt.de