Sense making of (social) sustainability: a behavioral and knowledge approach

Kristian Peters, Laura Maruster, Rob van Haren, René Jorna, Niels Faber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although sustainability is often discussed solely in ecological terms, it
cannot be disconnected from the way humans behave in their social environment.
This article presents a theoretical approach toward sustainability that takes a
human behavior and knowledge view on sustainability as a starting point.
This approach requires that human behavior should change, individually and
collectively, in order to achieve sustainability. Knowledge is identified as the
driving force behind human behavior and its effect on the ecological and social
environment. In connecting knowledge with sustainability, two concepts are
introduced: knowledge of sustainability (KoS), which refers to the sustainability
content of knowledge, and sustainability of knowledge (SoK), which denotes the
dynamics of the continuing process of knowledge creation and application. To
apply SoK and KoS, we argue that a cognitive interpretation of human behavior
should be formulated within a knowledge management approach that incorporates the stages of knowledge creation, integration, and application and that ensures the critical evaluation of created knowledge. In order to show that our new approach is practical, we use existing research from the Dutch starch potato industry to reformulate possibilities for the enhancement of sustainability in terms of KoS
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)8-22
JournalInternational studies of management organization
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • sustainability
  • behavior change
  • learning

Cite this