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Business and Professional Ethics Journal

Volume 34, Issue 3, Fall 2015

Vincent Blok, Bart Gremmen, Renate Wesselink
Pages 297-327
DOI: 10.5840/bpej201534342

Dealing with the Wicked Problem of Sustainability
The Role of Individual Virtuous Competence

Over the past few years, individual competencies for sustainability have received a lot of attention in the educational, sustainability and business administration literature. In this article, we explore the meaning of two rather new and unfamiliar moral competencies in the field of corporate sustainability: normative competence and action competence. Because sustainability can be seen as a highly complex or ‘wicked’ problem, it is unclear what ‘normativity’ in the normative competence and ‘responsible action’ in the action competence actually mean. In this article, we raise the question how both these moral competencies have to be understood and how they are related to each other. We argue for a virtue ethics perspective on both moral competencies, because this perspective is able to take the wickedness of sustainability into account. It turns out that virtue ethics enables us to conceptualize normative competence and action competence as two aspects of one virtuous competence for sustainability.