Sustainable development practices in higher education institutions are diverse, with regard not only to the types of challenges that have to be addressed, but also to the forms of sustainability governance adopted by individual higher education institutions. This paper aims to reflect on the aspects of organizational culture that are particularly crucial for the implementation of sustainable practices at higher education institutions. Specifically, it addresses the research question: how do different organizational cultures affect approaches to sustainability governance at higher education institutions (HEIs)? It reflects on data from multi-case studies at eleven German higher education institutions. Four of the cases are analyzed in this paper to draw out the insights they offer on how organizational culture shapes the institutions’ approach to sustainable development. A governance equalizer is used as a functional framework for evaluating and discussing the influence of different cultural orientations on sustainability governance. In addition to providing many insights and findings in relation to specific cases, comparison of the different institutions, their governance structures and their cultures of sustainable development helps to emphasize that there is no single cultural factor that can be identified as directly promoting particular governance structures. Rather, there is an active interplay between cultural orientations, which influence, and are also influenced by, the measures deployed. Such influence is not instantly apparent but needs time to develop, and it evolves in a variety of ways as illustrated by the case studies.
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