Sustainability competencies and skills in software engineering: An industry perspective

Rogardt Heldal, Ngoc-Thanh Nguyen, Ana Moreira, Patricia Lago, Leticia Duboc, Stefanie Betz, Vlad C. Coroama, Birgit Penzenstadler, Jari Porras, Rafael Capilla, Ian Brooks, Shola Oyedeji, Colin C. Venters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demands a shift by industry, governments, society, and individuals to reach adequate levels of awareness and actions to address sustainability challenges. Software systems will play an important role in moving towards these targets. Sustainability skills are necessary to support the development of software systems and to provide sustainable IT-supported services for citizens.

While there is a growing number of academic bodies including sustainability education in engineering and computer science curricula, there is not yet comprehensive research on the competencies and skills required by IT professionals to develop such systems.

Research goal:
This study aims to identify the industrial sustainability needs for education and training from software engineers’ perspective. For this, we answer the following questions: (1) what are the interests of organisations with an IT division with respect to sustainability? (2) what do organisations want to achieve with respect to sustainability, and how? and (3) what are the sustainability-related competencies and skills that organisations need to achieve their sustainability goals?

We conducted a qualitative study with interviews and focus groups with experts from twenty-eight organisations with an IT division from nine countries to understand their interests, goals, and achievements related to sustainability, and the skills and competencies needed to achieve their goals.

Our findings show that organisations are interested in sustainability, both idealistically and increasingly for core business reasons. They seek to improve the sustainability of software processes and products but encounter difficulties, like the trade-off between short-term financial profitability and long-term sustainability goals or an unclear understanding of sustainability concepts from a software engineering perspective. To fill these gaps, they have promoted in-house training courses, collaborated with universities, and sent employees to external training. The acquired competencies should support translating environmental and social benefits into economic ones and make sustainability an integral part of software development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111978
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Systems and Software
Early online date8 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Feb 2024


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