An Introduction to
Sustainability and
Systems

Tom Eggert
WI School of Business
tleggert@wisc.edu
Sustainable
Development
sustainable development is
development that meets the needs of
the present without compromising th...
Sustainability
“Sustainability is equity over time. As a value, it
refers to giving equal weight in your decisions to
the ...
Sustainability
"A world that works
for 100% of humanity
in the shortest possible time
through cooperation
without ecologic...
Sustainable
Development both a
Sustainable Development is

philosophy and pragmatic goal
based upon the principle that
hea...
Sustainability:
Defining Traits
Sustainability considers the whole
instead of the specific.
Sustainability:
Defining Traits
Sustainability emphasizes relationships
rather than pieces in isolation.
Sustainability
sustainability is a political
choice, not a technical one.
It’s not a question of
whether we can be
sustain...
Sustainability &
Basic Science
• Matter and energy cannot appear or disappear
(Conservation law)
• Matter and energy tend ...
Principles of
Sustainability
A Framework for
Sustainability:
The Natural Step

†
†
†
†

Keep it in the crust
Don’t make na...
Principles of
Sustainability
William McDonough: Cradle to Cradle
• Waste = Food

• Adore Diversity
• Live on Current Solar...
Principles of
Sustainability
Herman Daly
three rules for long-run sustainability:
-renewable resources cannot be used
fast...
Sustainability
1) Business needs a healthy, secure society and a
bountiful environment within which to
operate.
2) Healthy...
Sustainability
in Action
Sustainable Companies

a sustainable company is a
company that will last—a company
that can maint...
Sustainability
what can we do to become more
sustainable?
quit thinking about [sustainability] as solely
an economic probl...
Sustainability
Sustainability is a journey, not a
destination.
A Bit on Systems
• Our current systems are on a collision
course with each other
• No one has “The Answer”.
• Many effecti...
“Prediction is very difficult,
especially about the future” –
Niels Bohr
“I think there is a world
market for maybe five
c...
The Collision of Systems:
•

What’s Colliding?
– Financial (what we assume dominates)
– Social
– Natural
Why Systems Thinking?
"Systems thinking is a discipline for
seeing wholes. It is a framework for
seeing interrelationships...
Why Systems Thinking?
"Today systems thinking is needed more
than ever because we are becoming
overwhelmed by complexity.
...
Systems Thinking Lessons
• The importance of each component of a system
is tied to its relationship to the whole. And the
...
Systems Thinking Lessons
• Human communities are all living systems,
supported and supplemented with almost an
infinite nu...
Systems Thinking Lessons
• The power of systems thinking comes from a
focus on systemic structures, which is where the
gre...
Systems Thinking Lessons
• Systems thinking requires us to understand
that while there is only one Earth, it is
composed o...
Systems Thinking
• Although environmentalists used to be concerned
primarily about running out of sources, today more
peop...
Systems Thinking
• The purpose of this class is to help you find
the greatest levers for changing the systems
that have be...
Systems Thinking
And remember, there is no Easy Button!
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Introduction to Sustainability

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Early semester slide deck introducing the concept of sustainability and sustainable development

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Introduction to Sustainability

  1. 1. An Introduction to Sustainability and Systems Tom Eggert WI School of Business tleggert@wisc.edu
  2. 2. Sustainable Development sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. ~The Brundtland Commission 1987 (WCED 1987)
  3. 3. Sustainability “Sustainability is equity over time. As a value, it refers to giving equal weight in your decisions to the future as well as the present. You might think of it as extending the Golden Rule through time, so that you do onto future generations (as well as your present fellow beings) as you would have them do onto you.” Robert Gilman, Director, Context Institute
  4. 4. Sustainability "A world that works for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone." Buckminster Fuller
  5. 5. Sustainable Development both a Sustainable Development is philosophy and pragmatic goal based upon the principle that healthy and sustainable human systems emulate natural cycles, where all outputs are simply an input for another process. It means designing and managing resource extraction, materials and production processes in ways that conserve and recover
  6. 6. Sustainability: Defining Traits Sustainability considers the whole instead of the specific.
  7. 7. Sustainability: Defining Traits Sustainability emphasizes relationships rather than pieces in isolation.
  8. 8. Sustainability sustainability is a political choice, not a technical one. It’s not a question of whether we can be sustainable, but whether we choose to be
  9. 9. Sustainability & Basic Science • Matter and energy cannot appear or disappear (Conservation law) • Matter and energy tend to spread spontaneously (2nd Law of Thermodynamics) • Biological value lies in the concentration and structure of matter (Syntropy) – Green cells, through sun-driven processes are essentially the only net producers of concentration and structure (Photosynthesis)
  10. 10. Principles of Sustainability A Framework for Sustainability: The Natural Step † † † † Keep it in the crust Don’t make nasty stuff Don’t pave paradise Be thrifty and fair
  11. 11. Principles of Sustainability William McDonough: Cradle to Cradle • Waste = Food • Adore Diversity • Live on Current Solar Income • Love all the Children
  12. 12. Principles of Sustainability Herman Daly three rules for long-run sustainability: -renewable resources cannot be used faster than they regenerate. -non-renewable resources cannot be used faster than their waste products can be broken down by nature. -pollutants cannot be emitted at greater rates than the environment can process them.
  13. 13. Sustainability 1) Business needs a healthy, secure society and a bountiful environment within which to operate. 2) Healthy societies need businesses to provide goods and services. 3) And the natural world is best protected when businesses and societies are healthy.
  14. 14. Sustainability in Action Sustainable Companies a sustainable company is a company that will last—a company that can maintain its value to society, indefinitely.
  15. 15. Sustainability what can we do to become more sustainable? quit thinking about [sustainability] as solely an economic problem, but examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. it is wrong when it tends to do otherwise. ~Aldo Leopold
  16. 16. Sustainability Sustainability is a journey, not a destination.
  17. 17. A Bit on Systems • Our current systems are on a collision course with each other • No one has “The Answer”. • Many effectively articulate either only the problem or only an argument for “Business As Usual”.
  18. 18. “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future” – Niels Bohr “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” --Thomas Watson (1943) “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” --Lord Kelvin (1895) “This „telephone‟ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” --Western Union (1876) “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” --Charles H. Duell (1899) “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” --Marshal Ferdinand Foch “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” --David Sarnoff “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” --Harry M. Warner (1927) “There is no reason for any individuals to have a computer in their home.” --Ken Olson (1977)
  19. 19. The Collision of Systems: • What’s Colliding? – Financial (what we assume dominates) – Social – Natural
  20. 20. Why Systems Thinking? "Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static 'snapshots'... Peter Senge,The Fifth Discipline
  21. 21. Why Systems Thinking? "Today systems thinking is needed more than ever because we are becoming overwhelmed by complexity. Perhaps for the first time in history, humankind has the capacity to create far more information than anyone can absorb, to foster far greater interdependency than anyone can manage, and to accelerate change far faster than anyone's ability to keep pace." Peter Senge,The Fifth Discipline
  22. 22. Systems Thinking Lessons • The importance of each component of a system is tied to its relationship to the whole. And the essential properties of a living system (whether an organism or community) are properties of the whole. • Nature does not show us isolated building blocks, but rather a complex web of relationships that become parts of a unified whole.
  23. 23. Systems Thinking Lessons • Human communities are all living systems, supported and supplemented with almost an infinite number of subsystems. • Systems are reflected in the corporate, governmental, and non-profit sectors.
  24. 24. Systems Thinking Lessons • The power of systems thinking comes from a focus on systemic structures, which is where the greatest leverage for problem solving and positive change lies. • A systems approach can help shed light on current problems—especially those that seem to continually repeat—by viewing them from a different perspective. • Systems make change very difficult. Systems protect themselves and the status quo.
  25. 25. Systems Thinking Lessons • Systems thinking requires us to understand that while there is only one Earth, it is composed of a multitude of subsystems all interacting with each other. • These subsystems are connected together by intricate feedback loops.
  26. 26. Systems Thinking • Although environmentalists used to be concerned primarily about running out of sources, today more people are concerned about running out of sinks. • Global warming, the ozone hole, and conflicts over the international shipment of hazardous waste are all problems that have arisen from our attempts to dispose of resources faster than the natural sinks can absorb them.
  27. 27. Systems Thinking • The purpose of this class is to help you find the greatest levers for changing the systems that have been created around the linear take-make-waste production models and mechanical organizational designs that dominate most public and private organizations today.
  28. 28. Systems Thinking And remember, there is no Easy Button!

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