Systemic sustainability: toward an organic model
of governance—a research note.
Limits of measurement and transparency
The authors of this paper point out that the increasing pressure for sustainable development has resulted in a multitude of reporting practices intended to provide more transparent information on progress toward greater sustainability. They argue that measurement as an operating mode has emerged as a magic solution for reversing the trend towards unsustainable development. However, measuring the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability and calling for greater transparency through reporting, while necessary to highlight issues, as tools they cannot be regarded as sufficient. They are more likely to uncover only the unsustainable practices of the guilty than to instigate responsibility. The authors observe that despite increases in the levels of transparency and information production, being transparent about these actions and practices has failed to reverse the processes of climate change and to address the multiple crises escalating globally across climate, health, social, financial, economic and political domains.
From mechanistic to organic governance
Therefore, the authors assert that to enable reflection on coherent systems of governance much work is needed on the conceptualisation, determinants and consequences of sustainable development.
To this end the authors urge a shift away from this existing mechanistic type of corporate and public governance. The rationale of this approach is that more quantified impact data would lead to better solutions for addressing the negative effects of massification through the symbolic power of numbers :”what is measured gets managed“. They propose a systemic transformation to cooperative multi-level interactions in governance where local communities are empowered to act according to the natural rhythyms of the planet. The framework, termed organic governance departs from local actions carried out in isolation, moving towards a global vision integrated at the national and regional levels based on shared values drawn from deeper understandings of natural ecosystems at local levels.
This approach requires continual adaptation at local levels where economy and policy making serve the social wellbeing of local communities. In this research note, the authors have attempted to conceptualise a pathway to turn this situation around by transforming the existing mechanistic model of governance through an integrative, collective and cooperative systemic approach to sustainability.
This article was published in Journal of Management and Governance.
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of governance—a research note