Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore how the lack of staff engagement with a university's strategy on sustainability could be an enabling lever for organisational change. It examines the attitudes and views of employees of a business faculty at an Australian metropolitan university as it attempts to adopt a holistic approach to sustainability. Design/methodology/approach - The paper opted for a case study using data from an on-line survey, semi-directed interviews with key management personnel and archival material. Responses were analysed using Piderit's (2000) notion of ambivalence. Findings - The paper provides empirical insights into why staff lacked engagement with the university's strategy on sustainability. It suggests that staff were ambivalent, displaying dissonance in their personal beliefs on sustainability, the university's strategy and the extent of their intentions to support the university. Staff were willing to offer ideas on how the university could, in the future, change towards sustainability. These ideas allow the possibility for the university to learn to adjust the scope of the implementation of its sustainability strategy. Research limitations/implications - The research results may lack generalisability. Therefore, researchers are encouraged to further examine staff attitudes on sustainability in higher education using Piderit's notion of ambivalence. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions could allow a better understanding of harmony and dissonance in cognition of and intention for university sustainability strategies and initiatives by academic, professional and sessional staff. Practical implications - The paper includes implications for staff engagement with sustainability in higher education. Originality/value - This paper fulfils an identified need to study how staff engagement with sustainability in higher education can be enabled for organisational learning.