Systems thinking and Corporate Sustainability

Good people can make bad or harmful decisions if the system within which they are making those decisions are poorly designed

What is a system?

A system is a set of elements whose interconnections determine their behavior

Systems thinking

Systems thinking is a management discipline that concerns an understanding of a system by examining the linkages and interactions between the components that comprise the entirety of that defined system.

The whole system is a systems thinking view of the complete organisation in relation to its environment. It provides a means of understanding, analysing and talking about the design and construction of the organisation as an integrated, complex composition of many interconnected systems (human and non-human) that need to work together for the whole to function successfully.

Increasing recognition that the inter-dependency of our globalised society means that there needs to be co-ordination across all parts of the system we are trying to change.

Using systems thinking for environmental sustainability

By using a systems approach, we can better understand what lies underneath various social issues in order to develop long-term solutions.

Please read the below article in pairs and write down some key ideas.

Clear Mapping -

Winslow who formerly worked at Nike, brought in systems mappers to the sports giant in 2000, to create a constellation that ranged from suppliers through to customers, investors and governments. It also included elements such as looking at the company's dependence on natural resources, environmental impacts and the implications for its business model.

"As you go deep, you find interconnections you did not even know existed," she said. "Taking the time upfront to create these maps is very important."

Severn, who is currently working on a systems change programme to eliminate hazardous chemicals from supply chains and products, agrees:

"System maps are a tool for dialogue and once that happens around a common perspective, it becomes a lot easier. Without a map, it just becomes arguments in pieces rather than the system as a whole.
"Creating a map has stimulated a lot of dialogue and helped create a shared vision so everyone can come together and take action in their own parts of the system.”


Created with images by Steppinstars - "windmill wind wind turbine"

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