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Systems thinking is a holistic approach to problem-solving that recognises the interconnections and interdependencies between different components of a system. This approach emphasises the importance of considering the whole system and its impact on the individual parts, rather than just focusing on individual components in isolation.

In the context of sustainability leadership, systems thinking enhances leadership by providing a framework for leaders to understand the complex relationships between different sustainability issues, such as environmental, social, and economic systems. This understanding can inform decision-making and help leaders identify and prioritise actions that will have the greatest impact on sustainability outcomes.

For example, a systems thinking approach can help leaders understand how the actions of one organisation or industry can have downstream effects on other parts of the system, such as the impact of waste management practices on the environment and local communities. This knowledge can help leaders make decisions that take into account the broader implications of their actions and identify opportunities for collaboration and systemic change.

Additionally, systems thinking can help leaders understand the interplay between technical, social, and cultural factors that influence sustainability outcomes. This can inform leadership strategies that address the root causes of sustainability challenges and identify opportunities for innovation and transformative change

Systems thinking enhances systems leadership in sustainability by providing a holistic and interconnected perspective that enables leaders to make informed decisions, prioritise actions, and identify opportunities for systemic change. If you would like to know more about applying systems thinking in your organisation please contact me at

Mary Cronin
Author: Mary Cronin
March 28, 2023
Mary is an innovation specialist, systems thinker and circular economy facilitator. As the founder of UpThink Innovation Agency, Mary works with SMEs and large organisations as a circular economy/climate change/ESG consultant.