Building system resilience into business management

Project Status: 

Working with the top 100 Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed companies, this research was able to establish seven critical principles that build stronger and more resilient businesses in the face of uncertainty and global change pressures.

The CSIR undertook the research with support from PricewaterhouseCoopers and defined the ‘business as usual’ of the future, whereby resilience is employed to ensure sustainability in the face of modern day global challenges facing businesses.

The seven principles embrace the concept of building the resilience of the social ecological system of a business into their value creation proposition. In light of the unprecedented pace of global change and the consequential associated risks, research shows that businesses need to move beyond reducing environmental impact, and refocus their business strategies and management within the limits of their social ecological system such that they are not only creating value for their stakeholder but also creating value that enables systems resilience to be built and maintained.

The seven principles: systems; risk and adaptation; decoupling; restoration; wellbeing; collaborative governance; and innovation and foresight, ensure that social ecological systems are better equipped to continue functioning optimally so that the businesses within them can continue creating value in the short and long term as well as responding to opportunities arising from change. The principles were developed in a series of workshops with a multidisciplinary team comprising specialists from various backgrounds including auditing and reporting; ecology; social science; business management and resource economics. Interviews were also conducted with 10 companies from a range of different industries considered leaders in terms of integrated reporting.

The principles are underpinned by the goals of sustainable development, the ‘green’ (i.e. new) economy, and best practice corporate citizenship, and their application is enabled through use of a series of worksheets allows businesses to assess the extent to which they are currently addressing resilience.


Department of Science and Technology


CSIR and PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Contact Person

Dr Lorren Haywood

Key Concept

Systems resilience
Systems resilience refers to the underlying social and ecological system within which a business operates being able to persist and adapt to change and still continue to maintain its structure and function.