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Life’s complicated. That’s the simple part.

Here’s Part 5 of my co-authored series on Sustainability Metrics Pitfalls for Greenbiz.com. We dive deeper into Complexity scholarship and offer some practical resources for Sustainability practitioners to make things simpler.

Why Sustainability Metrics Need to Mix Simplicity With Complexity

Over the course of this series, we’ve described pitfalls where steps that look like the right course sometimes backfire. Life cycle analysis, for instance, may lead to a surprise about the assumed high priority of recycling for every item.

But systems thinking is hard. So in this piece, while we continue to provide additional reasons why it’s essential, we add some “practically idealistic” ideas to make it more feasible.


The devil’s in the (complicated) details.

You know the old joke that if a problem can be fixed with money, it’s not a problem?

Same goes for measuring Sustainability. If a measurement problem can be fixed with numbers, it wasn’t much of a problem to start with.

Real problems are complex.

Here’s Part 4 of my co-written series on Sustainability Metrics for Greenbiz.com:

Why Complexity Matters When Measuring Sustainability

We note that systems thinking is starting to come up in sustainable business conversations, but remain concerned about persistent mindsets that ignore complexity. Without it, sustainability practitioners are unequipped to grapple with a point that should come up early in metrics work: “Did we just miss something very important?”

Too many articles implicitly distill big problems into linear, simpler solutions. While the latter have an important place, the large reliance on them fails the global test — in all senses of the term — that our world’s challenges demand.