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A holistic framework for environmental change: socio-environmental cohesion for sustainability

Knowles, Kathryn


Kathryn Knowles


Angela Ma. (Angela María) Espinosa Salazar


Research purpose: Environmental issues have become a regular debate within social, business and political arenas. The need to combine social, environmental and economic systems to achieve a sustainable future (Triple Bottom Line), is gaining prominence within many international development projects. The study of traditional business Environmental Management Systems (EMS) leads to the observation that such systems place primary emphasis upon economic and environmental factors. The project begins with the proposal that an EMS built by an organisations employees' has a greater potential to identify practical environmental impacts and reduce social resistance to change.Methods: This thesis details the development of a seven-stage framework for environmental change referred to as Socio-Environmental Cohesion for Sustainability (SECS). The framework is trialled within a case study organisation (OrgX) using an interpretivist philosophy of social constructionism to guide the research. An action research project is conducted with the researcher acting as an observing participant of the change process. The developed framework follows a multimethodology design of organisational engagement, with strong emphasis placed upon the social values that can drive environmental management practices. The combination of cybernetic and social tools of organisational analysis is shown to provide a unique approach to environmental strategy design; Viable Systems Model, Team Syntegrity, Cultural Analysis, Social Network Analysis.Results: The Cultural and Social Network Analyses provide evidence of an informal environmental network (EWG) contained within OrgX, and identify the core social environmental values of the employee group. A Team Syntegrity workshop is performed and develops a bottom-up participatory approach to environmental strategy designs between the EWG and business management. Following the workshop, OrgX is shown to implement 56% of the developed environmental strategy within eight months. The Viable Systems Model is used to diagnose the organisations structure, which is then combined with the Social Network Analysis to establish the outreach of the EWG.Conclusions: The recognition of the informal environmental network as an official management committee, improvements to operational efficiency and practical benefits to onsite biodiversity, indicates that the SECS framework is capable of addressing all aspects of the Triple Bottom Line.


Knowles, K. (2010). A holistic framework for environmental change: socio-environmental cohesion for sustainability. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 22, 2011
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date Jun 1, 2010


Thesis (7.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2010 Knowles, Kathryn. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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