Social Systems

Social Systems




Over the last few decades, one of the biggest discussions within society, governments, and various organizations has been on sustainability and how to move forward not only as a community, but as a world together “as one”. We all have a moral obligation to make our world sustainable for future generations to be able to enjoy the world similarly to how we have.

Some of the ways that the world is moving in this direction is through bringing about governance and different “sustainability teams” in business. It’s actually not only a business’ obligation to make these strides, but should be one for us personally. This became a massive movement this year in 2018 with the plastic straw ban. Whether this was actually a massive movement for sustainability, it creates discussion about the subject, and in the end, more strides towards sustainability occur. 

It’s all about getting more people involved and focused on the same goal. One of the biggest difficulties that will be faced is how to bring about equality within the social structure because without that, it will be almost impossible to have central figures, like the government, to achieve sustainability.

Sustainability & Governance


When building a sustainable society, typically we have to begin with governance and how an organization is run. Doing so enables for an organization to integrate with their employees by having a strong governance structure within the company. In order to do this, a company needs to have direct communication with the “high-ups” within the organization and those members need to be completely committed to the cause, otherwise the rest of the community will not follow suit.

If we’re looking at an organization, lets take for example Nike since they’ve been in the spotlight recently with their political views. Aside from their political stance, they are doing something extremely interesting to help coordinate and help integrate sustainability within our society. They put together a “Sustainable Business and Innovation Team”, which is currently “helping [to] integrate sustainability across the company’s value chain, from innovation to retail” (Eapen).

While I definitely have distaste for what Nike is currently doing to gain attention from the public eye, I definitely applaud what they are doing within their organization and how they are taking steps forward. In order for an organization to function properly while keeping this ideology of sustainability, they need to make sure they are able to bridge the gap between the structure of the governance and the actual business. Other organizations are doing this by creating what’s called a CSO, or Chief Sustainability Officer, or having a board committee overseeing decisions on sustainability and helping to educate about how it all works.

The CSO can be essentially viewed as the “internal and external ‘face’ for sustainability for the company” (Eapen). For many SMEs, this might not be completely feasible because of the expense of an executive level worker, but they can also look into implementing advisory councils outside of the actual organization to help them receive unbiased opinions for effective sustainability governance. For some larger corporations such as IBM, they bring representatives from all over their organization to meet on a monthly basis to discuss sustainability within the company, which they call the Corporate Responsibility Meeting Group.  

Participation in Sustainability


One of the most difficult obstacles for sustainability right now is getting people from around the world to actually want to participate and be a part of this trend. Over recent years, we have made great strides in this respect. Earlier this year, one of the biggest headlines we saw not only in the US, but also throughout the entire world, was the new ruling for plastic straws. This whole topic absolutely blew up this summer and might end up becoming one of the biggest discussions of 2018.

It first started with Santa Barbara, CA, creating an ordinance calling for “banning the distribution or sale of plastic straws at bars, restaurants, and other establishments, with plastic stirrers and cutlery only available upon request. People could actually see jail time for breaking this law (after 2 offenses)! Cities and individuals all around the country started following this trend shortly afterwards to either gain popularity/fame or just to join in on the cause. Most notably, the vegan All-Pro QB, Tom Brady, jumped on board, and we saw press releases from major organizations like Starbucks.

Typically organizations as massive as Starbucks only do these type of changes when they are forced to do, or if it benefits them (Houck). In this case, I think that Starbucks probably pulled this to get better attention from the public since they’ve had some struggles with a couple incidents at stores Philadelphia. This definitely looked like an easy PR win for the organization, so I’m not surprised they pulled through on it so quickly. I actually remember my father talking about how all the straws we’re taken away from Starbucks since he’s an avid coffee fan.  

Inequality & Sustainability


Over the last few years, relations between certain parts of society and the government have become extremely tense. According to Robert Sampson, in order for sustainability projects to be successful, “technological approaches must be accompanied by efforts to reduce those inequalities, create strong, long-lasting neighborhood social networks, and foster greater citizen interaction with government” (Reuell). In essence, with the explosion of big data and other technological movements that we’ve seen recently, including smart cities, we can’t forget about the actual social structure of our cities.

This isn’t just focused on economic structure, but also hits on racial structures that we have created by isolating certain neighborhoods, leading to high crime rates in certain areas. With these higher crime rates, it leads to citizens being more mistrustful of our authorities and no want to report certain issues. To prove his research further, Sampson spoke about an example using the individuals who are residing in Beacon Hill. In this example, he talked about how the “residents of may report more instances of graffiti than other neighborhoods, but more reports don’t necessarily reflect more graffiti” (Reuell).

The point that Sampson is making is by making these types of reports, it gives the citizens a sense of trust in the system, and when reports go unnoticed or the issue takes longer to be fixed, it can tarnish this trust. Having this trust within the system and its social structure leads to a more sustainable community, and creates a healthier environment for everyone to live in.

In the country of Colombia, there has been a war going on for years, and this has made it extremely difficult for the economy to flourish. The war became so grim that the government soon had hardly any control over making any steps forward for sustainability. When you look at an entire country, or just a neighborhood, some of the effects on the social structure such as violence, fear, withdrawal, and isolation all have impacts on sustainability and how society is able to move forward.



Sustainability is something that has been a huge topic recently, and for good reason. Our society has a huge role in how our world will look in the future, and unfortunately, if we don’t make the right decisions now, it could and most likely will affect future generations to come for our idiocy. Many will say “told you so”, and that we should’ve listened earlier on.

When we see issues arise, for our world and society as a whole, we need to band together and tackle these issues together. This way, we can get everyone’s different perspectives and overcome it as effectively as possible.

Instead of waiting until it’s a dire moment to fix some of these issues like we have done in the past, we need to have an open mind about the future, so we can leave this world in harmony knowing that the environment has been taken care of to the best of our abilities!  



Eapen, S. (2017, August 2). How to Build Effective Sustainability Governance Structures. Retrieved from BSR website:

Houck, B., Ms. (2018, July 12). Why the World Is Hating on Plastic Straws Right Now. Retrieved from Eater website:


Reuell, P., Mr. (2017, February 17). To advance sustainability, fight inequality, researcher says. Retrieved from The Harvard Gazette website:

Mark Anstead
Mark Anstead

Co-Founder of Numio

Global sustainable development
Global sustainable development

Topics involving sustainable development

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