The importance of systems thinking in ethical and sustainable decision-making

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Ethical values beyond the satisfaction of basic human needs are specific to each society at a given time. Modern societies are confronted to the challenges of disappearing natural resources, fierce competition on global markets, and climate change. In this paper we define good, and at the same time ethical decisions in the 21st century as being in accordance with the principles of Sustainable Development. Operations Research can assist sustainable decision-making in two ways: (1) through the tools of systems thinking, in particular system dynamics and soft system modelling, to provide insight into the way complex non-linear living systems and human societies function, and help making sustainable decisions, and (2) through educating and training young people in systems thinking. The paper presents examples of simple models that could serve in classrooms.
Keywords: OR in Ethics, Sustainable Development, Systems thinking, Education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-269
Number of pages17
JournalCentral European Journal of Operations Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2007


  • OR in Ethics, Sustainable Development
  • Systems thinking


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