Few reject the idea of sustainable development but it is often criticized as so ill-defined that it cannot be pursued. SDI is researching how Complex Sustainability can be turned into practical policy at all levels of governance and in business organizations.

Sustainable Business

Governments cannot deliver sustainable development; perhaps businesses will contribute. Until business leaders are able to integrate sustainability with profitability, businesses will act in their own interest at great cost to their social and natural environment. Faced with the challenges of a more turbulent world and a global market, businesses usually reject, or at best give lip-service, to demands that they be more socially and environmentally responsible. This research shows that the same management practices that increase profit in a complex business environment directly contribute to sustainable development.

Institutions and Sustainability

Institutions are the rules by which society organizes itself and the interactions of its members. As sustainable development is primarily a matter of social organization, the appropriate arrangement and definition of institutions contribute to a sustainable future. Climate Innovation shows that the institutions of modern capitalism are not arranged to develop the technological innovations needed to prevent dangerous climate change without international political consensus and coordinate action.

Personal Practices

Research is in progress on an educational program to show individuals how they can improve their lives while at the same time contributing to sustainability. See an outline of this research here.

Living On a Complex Planet

Sustainable development defies normal science’s simplistic and static view of reality. Theories of complex systems adapted from the physical and natural sciences offer a new way to understand and think about sustainability. They also dictate new social and economic policies and practices.

Complexity in World Politics. With Dr. Harrison as the principal investigator, several senior international relations scholars show how complex systems concepts and ideas can be adapted to improve theory and practice in international relations and world politics. The initial results of this collaborative research has been published by SUNY Press. A description of the book can be found here. The first chapter can be found here. Theories of complexity as described and developed in this book suggest that sustainable development is a bottom-up process.

Our research continues on the uses of complexity concepts and ideas for understanding the world we live in.

To understand complex systems better see the blog “Living on a Complex Planet”.

For more information please contact us at info@sd-institute.org.

We welcome comment on our current research and suggestions for further research.

Last modified January 15, 2014.


Enjoyment and Conservation