Making the right connections

In the first in a new series on management concepts, the environmentalist provides a guide to systems thinking

Responding effectively to the key environmental and sustainability risks and challenges facing businesses that were identified by IEMA in its 2014 report Preparing for the Perfect Storm: skills for a sustainable economy is a complex ask. Systems thinking can provide a better way to look at issues such as climate change and resource depletion because it focuses on the links and interactions between the components that form a system and cause change over time.

It enables individuals and organisations to view systems from a broad perspective, including the overall structures, patterns and cycles, rather than seeing specific events only. Taking a whole systems approach, the various moving parts and how each component affects the rest can help to solve problems. And an understanding of how actions affect the whole can lead to better business decisions.

Indeed, IEMA includes systems thinking in its list of the core ingredients required to transform organisations to sustainability. The list was in the 2016 report Beyond the Perfect Storm and as well as systems thinking it includes: leadership, listening, engagement, collaboration and innovation.

What is systems thinking?

Systems can be social, environmental and political. Dymphna van der Lans, chief executive at the Clinton Climate Initiative, says the ...

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