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Sustainability management : insights from the viable system model

Panagiotakopoulos, Panagiotis D.; Espinosa Salazar, Angela María; Walker, Jon


Panagiotis D. Panagiotakopoulos

Angela María Espinosa Salazar

Jon Walker


A review of current literature on sustainability standards reveals a significant gap between their adoption and the implementation of sustainability into every level of the organisation. In this paper, it is argued that in order to overcome this challenge, an appropriate model of an organisation is needed. The Viable System Model (VSM) is proposed as such a model and, in order to illustrate this argument, it is used to interpret the ISO 26000 standard on Social Responsibility (SR). First, the VSM theory is introduced and presented by modelling the hypothetical company Widget Co. Then, the clauses of ISO 26000 are mapped on the Widget Co. model, together with detailed descriptions and examples on the organisational and managerial implications of its adopting the standard's guidelines. The result is the identification of generic SR functions that need to be performed by the various organisational governance systems, as well as their dynamic interrelations, thus clarifying implementation issues. Moreover, by identifying different SR management layers, VSM is suggested as a way forward to develop an integration model for SR issues and respective sustainability tools. Finally, a discussion is given on the implications of using this approach to integrate sustainability standards and the way this research contributes to recent developments in sustainability research.


Panagiotakopoulos, P. D., Espinosa Salazar, A. M., & Walker, J. (2016). Sustainability management : insights from the viable system model. Journal of cleaner production, 113, 792-806.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 15, 2015
Online Publication Date Nov 24, 2015
Publication Date Feb 1, 2016
Deposit Date Feb 4, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Journal of cleaner production
Print ISSN 0959-6526
Electronic ISSN 1879-1786
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 113
Pages 792-806
Keywords Viable system model; Sustainability; Social responsibility; ISO 26000
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article Published in: Journal of cleaner production, 2016, v.113
Contract Date Nov 23, 2017


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