Fenwick T.. 2007. Developing organizational practices of ecological sustainability: a learning perspective. Leadership & Organization Development Journal. 28(7)


Discusses issues and strategies related to the development of practices for ecological sustainability in organizations.

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Key Findings: 

This article poses several questions in regard to social responsibility and ecological sustainability practices in organisations. These questions relate to how practices are maintained, what specific learning is involved, and how learning can be fostered by organisational leaders. Key elements for maintaining sustainability practices were a focus on personal responsibility and commitment, education, a direct emphasis on learning from ‘every-day action,’ and “a systemic structure of emergence.” This structure of emergence is related to theories of complex adaptive systems and includes: enhancing diversity; decentralised decision-making; increasing connectivity; continuous feedback; and creating enabling conditions for effective learning. The type of learning involves communicative processes that occur across various levels within the hierarchical structure of the organisation, across daily activities and operational procedures, and extends to customers. This communication is clear and consistent, gradually builds capacity through active involvement, and involves strategies for resolving conflict. Leaders foster learning by creating opportunities for direct involvement at all scales of organisational activity and through fostering of active networks. Performance measurement has some role. However formal recognition and encouragement of innovation, improvisation and adaptation are critical.


This article points out that organisational learning for sustainability requires the active involvement and commitment of all individuals within the organisational hierarchy and extends through its networks. This learning must make sense to individuals at the ‘every-day’ level of operation and according to their specific interests and needs to encourage commitment. Space to tinker, question, experiment, make mistakes and a general freedom to learn is clearly also essential. This is formally described as processes of emergence, which are critical for adaptive learning in complex systems management. This requires forward-thinking and flexible approaches to leadership.