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Integrated sustainability management for organizations

Panagiotakopoulos, Panagiotis; Espinosa, Angela; Walker, Jon


Panagiotis Panagiotakopoulos

Angela Espinosa

Jon Walker


Dr Raul Espejo


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to propose the Viable System Model (VSM) as an effective model to base the analysis of organizational sustainability (long-term viability). It is specifically proposed as a model to integrate the various sustainability tools, and as the basis for designing a unified Sustainability Management System. Design/methodology/approach – The VSM is used as an organizational model to examine three prominent sustainability standards: ISO 26000, ISO 14001 and ISO 14044. A generic manufacturing company is used as a template; and its typical business processes are related to each of the VSM’s components. Each clause of the three sustainability standards is then mapped on to the VSM model. These three models are integrated into one, by analysing the differences, similarities and complementarities in the context of each VSM component, and by identifying common invariant functions. Findings – In all, 12 generic sustainability functions are identified. ISO 26000 has the widest scope; ISO 14001 is focused primarily on internal measurement and control (System 3), while ISO 14044 is a complex performance indicator at the System 3 level. There is a general absence of System 2. Each standard can be regarded as a distinct management layer, which needs to be integrated with the Business Management layer. Research limitations/implications – Further research is needed to explore the specifics of integration. Practical implications – This integration should not be based on creating distinct roles for each management layer. Originality/value – The paper uses the insights of organizational cybernetics to examine prominent sustainability standards and advance sustainability management at the business level.


Panagiotakopoulos, P., Espinosa, A., & Walker, J. (2015). Integrated sustainability management for organizations. Kybernetes, 44(6/7), 984-1004.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 25, 2015
Publication Date 2015-06
Deposit Date Feb 5, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Kybernetes
Print ISSN 0368-492X
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 6/7
Pages 984-1004
Keywords Governance, Sustainability, Environmental management, Cybernetics, Viable systems
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Kybernetes, 2015, v.447, issue 6/7


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