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Teaching digital natives to acquire competences for sustainable development

Llorenç Bagur-Femenías (School of Management, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain)
Marian Buil-Fabrega (School of Social and Business Sciences Tecnocampus, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain)
Juan Pedro Aznar (ESADE Business and Law School, Barcelona, Spain)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 14 July 2020

Issue publication date: 5 September 2020




The purpose of this research is to analyse how to adapt teaching and learning methodologies to new generations of digital natives to promote their commitment to sustainable development. The research explores the existence of a relationship between digital natives’ characteristics, individual dynamic capabilities and their commitment to innovation and therefore to sustainability.


A structural equation model is used to test the proposed hypothesis by a survey conducted with 532 digital-native higher education students.


The results show the existence of a significant relationship between digital natives’ competences, individual dynamic capabilities and a better approach to managing situations with regard to relationships with key stakeholders and the fostering of innovation and commitment to the social and environmental issues demanded by society.

Research limitations/implications

The limitations of this study are that it is based on a sample from a specific Spanish university that cannot be representative of all digital natives from all universities and different cultural contexts. The variables measuring the characteristics of digital natives have only recently been used in the academic literature.

Practical implications

The research proposes including individual dynamic capabilities and innovation courses in sustainable development education to accelerate the implementation of sustainable development goals. These research findings can be used as insights into the development of university programmes and courses.


This research is one of the first attempts at understanding how to promote education for sustainable development among digital natives and at identifying them as future change makers for sustainable development.



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their contributions.

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Funding: The authors declare this reserach did not recieve any funding.


Bagur-Femenías, L., Buil-Fabrega, M. and Aznar, J.P. (2020), "Teaching digital natives to acquire competences for sustainable development", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 1053-1069.



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