“HOW TO” Model to ENHANCE sustainable ORGANIZING

Reading #6:

A triple-loop “HOW TO” Model to ENHANCE sustainable ORGANIZING

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Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility (LEAD 3030)

The “triple-loop learning model” provides a helpful overarching conceptual framework that ties together different readings, ideas, and assignments about sustainability. 1 In particular, it is a ‘how to’ model to manage organizations to become more sustainable. It shows how individual behavior is both insufficient and necessaryPreparedness reports are one hour prior to class on Thursday, Oct. 14.

As its name suggests, triple-loop learning encompasses both “single-loop learning” and “double-loop learning.” As shown in the Figure below, each of the three “loops” has both a “feedforward” and a “feedback” component (these two components, taken together, form each loop). Let us look at each.

I need a one page summary today please answer 2 questions only 1

1. Feedforward: Moving from the first loop  second loop  third loop

First loop. In the first loop a problem or issue (or maybe an opportunity) is identified that prompts the need for a behavioral response (feedforward). For example, imagine that a person becomes aware of climate change and how it is related to the use of fossil fuels (problem), and so the person decides to stop driving to work in a car and instead opts to take a bicycle (behavior). Riding a bike is a behavior that represents a small action in addressing the problem of climate change (feedback loop).

Second loop. Now imagine that the person riding the bike from the previous example reflects on this experience. After six months of cycling, the person realizes that their physical endurance has improved, that they have lost some unnecessary weight, and that they have saved a considerable sum of money thanks to reduced fuel costs, reduced parking costs, and less wear and tear on their car. Then the person reads research that says that cycling to work reduces by over 40% the chance of developing cancer, heart disease, and dying early,2 and that GHG emissions per kilometer are ten times lower for bikes than for cars.3 Moreover, cycling enhances mental well-being. Taken together, the person starts to change their worldview. Rather than think people who cycle during the winter are odd or silly, the person starts to think of cycling as a desirable lifestyle choice. Their way of seeing the world changes (that is, the behavior change from the first loop leads to feedforward change in the second loop). This changed worldview in turn influences their subsequent behavior (feedback), as the person starts cycling more places, purchases cycling clothing for different kinds of weather, bike lights for cycling at night, and so on (behavior). This results in more (and safer) cycling, which in turn further reduces climate change (original problem).

Third loop. After a while, our cyclist begins to feel miffed that there are not enough bike lanes in Winnipeg. Why should all our tax dollars go to paving roads for drivers who are contributing to climate change? Shouldn’t we be encouraging more people to cycle by creating appropriate infrastructure for cyclists (e.g., bike lanes)? This would lower road costs (it’s cheaper to build a bike lane than to add another road/traffic lane), improve the environment, and reduce GHG emissions and health care costs (thanks to the long-term health benefits of cycling). So the person begins to lobby the government, writes letters to their city counselor, attends bike rallies, signs petitions, and so on (thus, the changed worldview in the second loops feeds forward to prompt efforts to change social structures and systems and norms in the third loop). And after a while politicians get the message and start to build more cycling lanes. These lanes in turn reinforce cyclists’ worldviews (feedback to second loop) and behavior (feedback to first loop) and help to save the planet (the original problem to be solved)! And it also attracts non-cyclists to begin cycling, as they see cycling is normal and recognize its benefits.

business example of the feed-forward process4

With more than $1 billion in sales annually, Interface is the world’s leading supplier of modular carpeting. Consider how the triple-loop process model is evident in the story of Interface Inc.’s journey toward socio-ecological sustainability.

Recognizing the problem. The triple-loop process began in 1990 when some of his salespeople asked the late Ray C. Anderson, founder and CEO of the Interface, to give a talk about the firm’s environmental vision. Anderson, who had founded the firm in 1969, did not have such a vision. So he did some homework and was embarrassed to learn that over 2 million tonnes of his firm’s product lay in landfills, and that his firm was using about half a million tonnes of natural resources annually. “I was running a company that was plundering the earth . . . some day people like me will be put in jail!” In sum, Anderson recognized that Interface had a serious problem.

Behavior change. At first the company followed the simplistic three R’s that were common at that time: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. These behaviors were designed to address the problem.

Changed worldview. After some experience in working with the three R’s—coupled with Anderson’s conviction that there was only one planet Earth and that it was necessary for Interface to become a better steward of it—soon the company developed a much grander vision and worldview. Interface sought to eliminate negative ecological externalities altogether by the year 2020 (zero waste), and to enhance positive externalities by transforming “waste” that was being created by other organizations into useful inputs for Interface. Anderson likened this ambitious goal to climbing higher than Mt. Everest.

Change structures and systems. Interface instituted programs like QUEST (Quality Utilizing Employees’ Suggestions and Teamwork) and managed to reduce its global waste by 40% within three years (saving US $67 million). It also established and met goals with regard to renewable energy and resource-efficient transportation. Interface redesigned its commerce to be based not merely on financial prices, but rather on the true cost of natural resources. Today Interface uses “cradle-to-cradle” processes where its “used” carpet tiles become inputs to manufacture new carpet tiles, and it has introduced an “Evergreen Lease” where customers buy the service of carpeting rather than the product. It has also established numerous initiatives where it teaches other firms how to become more sustainable, and its “waste positive” initiative called “Cool Blue” reclaims the waste of other businesses thereby reducing the total waste in society.

These improvements in ecological sustainability subsequently triggered changes in social sustainability, which Anderson has called the “soft side” of the business. For example, the firm builds and operates overseas factories in China according the same standards as its factories in Europe and North America, and the firm has created innovative programs to hire people in socio-economically depressed communities (e.g., Harlem, New York City).

Within a few years Interface had increased sales by 20% without increasing inputs. Within four years of embarking on this journey to sustainability, Interface was on the Fortune 100 list of “Best Companies to Work For”—it had tripled its profits and doubled its employment. By 2007 the firm’s use of fossil fuels had decreased 45%, its net GHG emissions decreased 60%, its contribution to landfills decreased 80%, and its use of water for manufacturing was at 33% of its previous levels. By 2020 it achieved its zero emissions goal, and published a report called “Lessons for the future” to help other businesses achieve similar goals (see link below to download the report).5

2. Feedback: Moving from the third loop  second loop  first loop6

Finally, note that it is also possible to start at the right-hand side of the model (the social structure and systems in the third loop) and move to the left-hand side (first loop). For example, when looking at earlier example about cycling from this feedback perspective, we can see how the presence (or absence) of bike lanes (i.e., in the third loop) can have an effect on the worldviews of commuters (second loop). If there are a lot of bike lanes and cyclists, commuters will be more likely to see cycling as behavior (first loop) that they should consider. However, if there are no bike lanes, commuters will be more likely to continue to drive automobiles, which will in turn have a negative effect the problem of climate change.

Table 1 depicts the mutually reinforcing relationships between behavior, worldview and structures. The top “half” of the Table shows how the three loops work together to facilitate sustainability, and the bottom half of the Table shows how the three loops work together to counter sustainability.

Table 1: A simple example of feedforward/feedback loops in process model

Climate change caused by car travel  Commute by bicycle See cycling as a viable means of transportation, and recognize ‘bonus’ lifestyle benefits (e.g., improved physical health, financial savings)  Government enhances bike lanes, in response to lobbying
Ignore the role of automobiles in contributing to climate change  Use fossil fuels to commute  Cars are normal/convenient); cycling is strange/dangerous/ inconvenient) Emphasis on roads for automobiles; few bike lines

business example of the feedback process

To examine the feedback process let’s look at “Keep America Beautiful” (KAB)—an organization that wants to be perceived as promoting of sustainability—and how its structures and systems were designed to shape societal worldviews and people’s behaviors (in ways that counter sustainability).7

Structures and systems. KAB was created in 1953 to be a front group for a number of businesses who made and sold disposable containers for beverages. KAB continues to play an important role in this industry (e.g., when Pepsi-Co’s company Naked Juice became the first national brand to use a plastic bottle made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyethylene, it launched a program where it would donate up to 5 cents per bottle to KAB8).

Worldview promoted by KAB. Ever since it was created, KAB has promoted the worldview that the problem of waste and pollution could be solved by individuals at the household level, and by doing so KAB deflected attention away from the businesses that design, create, sell and profit from single-use disposable bottles.

“In one of the most iconic ads of the twentieth century, a Native American (actually, it was an Italian dressed up as a Native American) canoes through a river strewn with trash. He disembarks and walks along the shore as the passenger in a car driving past throws a bag of litter out the window. As the camera zooms in to a single tear rolling down his cheek, the narrator announces, “People start pollution. People can stop it”[see tv ad at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR06-RP3n0Q] (Leonard, 2013: 244).

Behavior promoted by KAB. “This 1971 ad, just a year after the first national Earth Day celebration, had a huge impact on a generation awakening to environmental concerns. Children and young adults watched it over and over, shared the faux-Indian’s grief, and vowed to make changes in their individual lives to stop pollution. That response was exactly what the ad’s creators hoped for: individual action. For the ad was produced not by a campaign to protect the environment but by a campaign to protect the garbage-makers themselves” (Leonard, 2013: 244; emphasis added here).

Problem recognition promoted by KAB. “It worked. Over the last few decades, the theme of the individual’s role in wrecking the environment, and the individual’s responsibility in fixing it, has only grown stronger—driven not just by KAB but by hundreds of businesses, by the government, even by well-meaning individuals and organizations. Today, lists of ‘10 simple things you can do to save the environment’ abound. The Lazy Environmentalist website will send you regular emails with tips on greening your shopping and household maintenance, implying that we really can save the environment without even breaking a sweat. Recyclebank, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola, rewards individuals for increasing their use and recycling of single-use beverage containers and other packaging. Participants who throw more single-use containers into the recycling bin are rewarded with more points—points that can be used to go shopping” (Leonard, 2013: 244-45).

Organizations like KAB promote a worldview and understanding of sustainability that is designed to keep consumers locked into a single-loop learning cycle that distracts them from (and renders invisible) the responsibilities of the businesses who create the negative externalities in the first place. In short, when people believe that their individual recycling behavior addresses the problem of waste, they fail to question the worldviews and structures and systems that create the waste in the first place. In the case of plastic bottles, for example, 86% of the 60 million plastic bottles used in the USA every day end up in landfills, where each can take up to 700 years to decompose. The energy used every year to manufacture, transport and then dispose of these plastic bottles amounts to the equivalent of about 16 million barrels of oil (enough fossil fuel to drive more than 100,000 cars for a year).9 Gulp. Why do we permit businesses to produce plastic bottles in the first place?

*** watch the Tedtalk by Rob Greenfield10 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhKevstJyrc

Question #1:Use the triple-loop model to describe/analyse Rob Greenfield’s experience.

Question #2:Use the triple-loop model to describe a specific example of improving sustainability.

  1. Start by identifying a specific sustainability problem the world is facing (e.g., you may want to draw in ideas from Reading #1).
  2. Identify one or more specific behavior(s) that can address this problem (e.g., maybe an idea for an Experiment with Sustainability).
  3. Describe how the behaviors you have identified may lead to a change in worldview, and then describe the new worldview.
  4. Finally, describe how this new worldview may lead to changes in social norms and/or structures and systems. Describe what the new systems and structures might look like.

Voila, you have a “model” to describe key processes and steps associated with making the world more sustainable.

Question #3: Repeat the four-step process described in Question #2 (but this time in the reverse order) to describe how the role of the media in social structures and systems promotes worldview and behaviors and that result in unsustainable practices. To help get you started in your thinking, consider that about 75% of the revenue earned by media (e.g., newspapers, television stations) comes from advertising dollars, and that about 75% of all advertising dollars come from the world’s 100 largest corporations?11 In other words, half the revenue that media earns comes from large corporations. Do you think this might affect the worldview and behavior of media, which in turn affect the worldview and behavior that media promote (e.g., should environmentalists be allowed to place paid ads like the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff7aj2ZItuk 12)?

1 This reading has been prepared by Bruno Dyck for students in LEAD 3030 at the University of Manitoba. For more on using triple-loop learning to enhance sustainability, see Kurucz, E., Colbert, B.A., and Wheeler, F. (2013). Reconstructing value: Leadership skills for a sustainable world. University of Toronto Press: Toronto. See also Argyris, C. (1990). Overcoming organizational defenses: Facilitating organizational learning. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. The triple loop model may be date back 2000 years; Dyck, B. (2013). Management and the Gospel: Luke’s radical message for the first and twenty-first centuries. NY: Palgrave-Macmillan

2 Walker, P, (2017, Sept 17). The ‘miracle pill:’ How cycling could save the NHS. Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2017/sep/17/the-miracle-pill-how-cycling-could-save-the-nhs

3 For an extensive study that takes the life cycle approach (e.g., recognizing that the cyclists burn more calories than drivers, and that the food consumed to source those calories often emit GHG), see Blondel, B. with Mespelon, C., & Ferguson, J. (2011). Cycle more often 2 cool down the planet: Quantifying C02 savings of cycling. European Cyclists’ Federation. https://ecf.com/sites/ecf.com/files/ECF_CO2_WEB.pdf

4 This example draws heavily from a description of Interface on pages 185-86 (Dyck, 2013); see also Dyck, B, Caza, A., & Starke, F. (2018). Management: Financial, social, and ecological well-being. Winnipeg: Sapajo.

Lessons for the future: The Interface guide to changing your business to change the world. Available at: http://interfaceinc.scene7.com/is/content/InterfaceInc/Interface/Americas/WebsiteContentAssets/Documents/Sustainability%2025yr%20Report/25yr%20Report%20Booklet%20Interface_MissionZeroCel.pdf

6 Note that it is also possible to start the learning process by changing one’s worldviews or values (second loop), and then have this effect one’s behavior (first loop) and social structures and systems (third loop).

7 The description and quotations in this section are drawn from Leonard, Annie (2013). “Moving from individual change to societal change.” Chapter 23 in State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?, Worldwatch Institute, p 244-52. According to its website, KAB is a $10 million charity with millions of volunteers and the mission: “To inspire and educate people to take action every day that improves and beautifies their community environment” (http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_home).

8 Page 186-187 in Martin, D., & Schouten, J. (2012). Sustainable Marketing. Boston, MA: Prentice-Hall.

9 Jobling-Hey, A. (2012, Sept 12). “Plastic water bottles and the environment: How bad is bad?” Found January 19, 2016 at http://www.bizenergy.ca/blog/plastic-water-bottles-and-the-environment-how-bad-is-bad/

10 This video may also help to inspire you with ideas for the Experiment with Sustainability. Rob Greenfield has a series of other, longer, thoughtful videos related to sustainable living.

11 Dyck and Neubert (2010).

12 “Adbusters launched a legal challenge after the CBC pulled its anti-car television ad, Autosaurus, from its automotive show Driver’s Seat. The ad ran once in February, 1993, but was withdrawn after complaints from other sponsors – mostly car companies.” It took almost 15 years of legal process to win the right to sue CBC. Morrow, F. (2009, April 6). Adbusters wins right to sue broadcasters over TV ads. Globe & Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/adbusters-wins-right-to-sue-broadcasters-over-tv-ads/article1150947/


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