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Towards an Holistic Framework for Environmental Change: The Role of Normative Behaviour and Informal Networking to Enhance Sustainable Business Practices

Abstract

The term ‘Sustainable Development’ is brandished by modern businesses as a marketing ploy used to suggest evidence of ethical conduct, innovative thinking and moral superiority. However, when analysing an organisations’ adoption of sustainable practices, it is often clear—within the UK—that there are few activities that have been undertaken as an ethical stance instead of legal obligation (McCormick in Environmental politics and policy in industrialized countries, MIT, London, 2002). Our hypothesis is that most methodologies and practices for environmental management do not adopt a holistic perspective, causing significant problems in implementation from inadequate structures and communication channels (Espinosa et al. in Eur J Oper Res, 187:636–651, 2008). In particular we consider that most organisations are currently stifled with management hierarchies that prevent informal/social networking, which may be one of the most powerful natural forms for self-organisation. It is proposed that sustainable development requires more efficient communication channels that foster self-organisation and self-regulation as a method for more productive change processes. In this paper, we explain the reasons why meta-systemic principles of self-organisation and distributed network management offer clear criteria to design an environmental management system that operates on the basis of self-controlled individuals and communities.

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Correspondence to Kathryn Knowles.

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Knowles, K., Espinosa, A. Towards an Holistic Framework for Environmental Change: The Role of Normative Behaviour and Informal Networking to Enhance Sustainable Business Practices. Syst Pract Action Res 22, 275–291 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11213-009-9123-2

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Keywords

  • System dynamics
  • Cybernetics
  • Environmental studies
  • Informal networking
  • Sustainable development