Integration of Sustainability Performance Indicators and the Viable System Model toward a Systemic Sustainability Assessment Methodology

Anh B Tong, Javier Calvo, Karl Haapala


Reports on the progress of sustainability initiatives in industrial practice and academic research have increased over the past several decades, but organizations are still faced with challenges in defining what sustainability means to them, in assessing their sustainability performance, and in making decisions that allow them to develop as sustainable systems. The developmental milestones of sustainability are consistent with the post-normal versus traditional science, where transdisciplinary and policy/action research are among the important approaches to be added to traditional analysis. This shift requires a new perspective to look at the problem at hand: we are no longer considering a group of users with common and self-interested goals when defining the scope of sustainability studies. This new perspective, in turn, requires sustainability indicators that can capture largely diverse but relevant measurements to completely represent the different perspectives that must be fulfilled, as well as requiring new methodologies that focus on heuristics, systemic stability, control, and feedback, versus traditional optimization for mechanistic problems. The presented research attempts to build upon an established connection between sustainability and viability, i.e., the Viable System Model offers a framework to map the self-adapting mechanisms that allow a system to cope with its internal and external sustainability challenges. These capabilities can help the organization reach its sustainability goals. A sustainability assessment model that integrates both sustainability indicators and Viable System Model methodologies has been developed and is presented here. This model presents an effort towards integrated assessment, with a focus on dynamics, control and feedback.


Sustainability assessment; sustainability indicators; Viable System Model; integrated assessment

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