Special Issue "A Systems Approach to Sustainability within Agenda 2030 and across SDGs"

A special issue of Systems (ISSN 2079-8954).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Alberto De Marco
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Management, Politecnico di Torino, 10129 Torino, Italy
Interests: project management; project finance; public-private partnerships; supply chain management and logistics; smart city policies; smart city business models and governance systems; application of project finance and PPP to Smart City projects; city logistics and smart mobility business models
Dr. Alberto Stanislao Atzori
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Sezione di Scienze Zootecniche, Dipartimento di Agraria, Università degli Studi di Sassari, 07100 Sassari, Italy
Interests: ruminant nutrition; nitrogen and methane; dairy farm management and efficiency; system dynamics modeling; feed and environment
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Ilaria Perissi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Chemistry Department, University of Florence, Sesto Fiorentino 50019, Italy
Interests: system dynamics; sustainability; renewable energy; resources
Dr. Stefano Armenia
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Research, Link campus University, 00165 Rome, Italy
2. System Dynamics Group and the Modeling & Simulation Lab, Link Campus University, 00165 Rome, Italy
3. President of SYDIC, the System Dynamics’ society Italian Chapter, Rome, Italy
4. Policy Council Member and VP Chapters and SIGs (2019-2021) of the System Dynamics Society
Interests: system dynamics; systems thinking; ABM; Social network Analysis; modeling and simulation; model driven architectures; BPM/BPR; economics; finance; systems analysis;operations research; public policy; public governance; policy modeling;change management; strategic decision making; Agenda 2030; SDGs; sustainability; decision support systems; smart model-based governance; project management; risk management; innovation; cyber risk; natural resources management; climate change
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs: www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment) demonstrate the scale and ambition of a new, universal approach to sustainable development for our planet: the 2030 Agenda, promoted by the United Nations.

The 17 SDGs (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/) integrate and balance the fundamental dimensions and complex dynamics of interconnected economic, social and environmentally sustainable development, both on a global and local scale. These goals are challenging due to an increasingly interconnected world, characterized by a global web of ecological, economic, social, cultural and political dynamic processes. Hence, these complex challenges cannot be addressed and solved in isolation and with single dimensional mindsets anymore.

Achieving the objectives proposed by the various SDGs requires a systems approach in line with the holistic vision of the Agenda, so to promote proper and efficient actions aimed at hitting those ambitious targets. For these reasons, proper “systemic” studies should be developed by taking into account that each action carried out to achieve the goals, will have dynamic consequences, over the short-to-medium or even long term period. It will be relevant to target the systemic relationships induced by the implementation of new policies or by the introduction of new technologies, the impacts of their adoption and possible unexpected consequences (delays, side effects, etc) toward the goals.

To this end, this Special Issues is focused on exploring, analyzing and proposing various interdisciplinary systemic and dynamic approaches to solve social, technical, managerial, engineering, and decision-making problems in order to achieve the vision of the Agenda, as a whole or with regards to just one SDG or a specific subset of SDGs.

The contributions to this SI are thus expected to explore strategies and to provide policy indications to overcome or remove the obstacles to pursuing integrated SDGs, hence efficiently accomplishing the 2030 Agenda.

The SI is open to practical contributions as well as theoretical papers and is expected to address a broad range of topics by means of a large span of systemic and dynamic approaches, as well as by means of different research techniques, in order to qualitatively and quantitatively depict the challenges attaining to the sustainable development targets.

However, papers reporting and presenting methodological and technological advances related to the application of simulation modelling-related theory and/or practice (i.e.: System Dynamics, Agent-based Modelling, Discrete Event modelling as well as their “hybridizations”) will be particularly welcome.

More specifically, the Editors encourage submissions of studies about:

  • understanding and representing dynamic complexity and interdependencies among SDGs
  • short and long-term implications of specific SDGs-targeted policies
  • unintended consequences, resistance factors, and collateral costs to achieving the SDGs
  • integrated policy impacts on multiple SDGs
  • policies based on resilient mechanisms enabling SDGs
  • highlights on long term effects of sustainable practices in different sectors

Prof. Dr. Alberto De Marco
Dr. Alberto S. Atzori
Dr. Ilaria Perissi
Dr. Stefano Armenia
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Systems is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable development
  • Change management
  • Policy
  • Agenda 2030
  • Systems Thinking
  • System Dynamics
  • Modelling and Simulation

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Communication
Sustainable Feedbacks of Colombian Paramos Involving Livestock, Agricultural Activities, and Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030
Systems 2019, 7(4), 52; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems7040052 - 28 Nov 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2898
Abstract
Colombian mountain Páramos are considered natural areas with a very important role for human life. Páramos provide, both in mountain and lowland areas, a multitude of ecosystem services which start from vegetation to soil sustainability. The sustainability of Páramos is however impaired by [...] Read more.
Colombian mountain Páramos are considered natural areas with a very important role for human life. Páramos provide, both in mountain and lowland areas, a multitude of ecosystem services which start from vegetation to soil sustainability. The sustainability of Páramos is however impaired by several anthropogenic activities, including agricultural and livestock practices. A system thinking approach was applied in this work to improve the systemic understanding of factors affecting sustainability and resilience of Páramos agro-ecosystems. Interdisciplinary literature evidences were summarized and conceptually analyzed in order to develop causal loop diagrams of Páramo system structures allowing describing the main feedback loops involving (involved in/connecting) the Páramo ecosystem and driving its sustainability. From the causal diagram analysis few insights to maintain the human presence in Páramos arose. The system analysis highlights that human presence in Páramos should be stimulated, avoiding agriculture and livestock activities as the main income source. Particularly, social interactions, education on the Páramos environmental and relevance of agricultural practices to foster ecosystem services and multiple rentable economic activities should be enhanced. The study also includes the role of the government in providing the Páramo inhabitants with payments for ecosystem services and environmental education aimed to boost sustainability. Sustainable Páramo management will apply specific leverages on the system to reach Sustainable Development Goals 6 (water), 8 (economic growth, employment and work), 13 (climate change), and 15 (sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems) of the Agenda 2030. Full article
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Article
The Rural-Urban Food Systems’ Links with the Agenda 2030: From FAO Guidelines on Food Supply and Distribution Systems to a Dairy Sector Application in the Area of Bogota
Systems 2019, 7(3), 45; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems7030045 - 10 Sep 2019
Viewed by 3367
Abstract
What should be the policy to meet urban food needs in developing countries and those in transition? This is a key question of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which was posed into the “FAO’s methodological and operational guide [...] Read more.
What should be the policy to meet urban food needs in developing countries and those in transition? This is a key question of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which was posed into the “FAO’s methodological and operational guide to study and understand Food Supply and Distribution Systems (FSDS) to cities in developing countries and countries in transition” in order to face the current overwhelming increase of urban population and the increasing urbanization pressures on food systems. Following some previous work in the field where it was argued that clarifying the various problems and structure behind Food Supply and Distribution Systems (FSDS) in urban environments is vital to assess policies that aim at meeting urban food needs, the purpose of this paper is to show that the methodological approach known as system dynamics modeling and simulation can lead, in terms of knowledge and/or theoretical contribution, to the unfolding of complexity in this area of research as well as bring into the analysis the relationships across a few goals of the Agenda 2030. As an additional result, we show how the developed model can be applied (case of the production of milk for consumption in the city of Bogota, Colombia) to analyze the dynamics of food supply and distribution systems in urban environments. Full article
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Article
Circular Economy for Food: A Systemic Interpretation of 40 Case Histories in the Food System in Their Relationships with SDGs
Systems 2019, 7(3), 43; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems7030043 - 22 Aug 2019
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 4365
Abstract
While the Circular Economy is widely championed by academics, companies, and politicians, its implementation is still an open issue. Its applications reveal a split between theory and practice. This break makes it difficult to pinpoint how coherent practices are with the original concept [...] Read more.
While the Circular Economy is widely championed by academics, companies, and politicians, its implementation is still an open issue. Its applications reveal a split between theory and practice. This break makes it difficult to pinpoint how coherent practices are with the original concept and how to understand the purpose of the actions and assess the results’ effectiveness. This is immediate when we consider the complexity of food. This paper aims to provide further insight on the applications and spill over of the circular economy into the food system. Through the systemic analysis of case histories, the research evaluates the effects of 40 circular economy actions in their relationship with Sustainable Development Goals, by assessing how they have been able to integrate and balance the economic, social, and environmentally sustainable development’s dimensions into the food system. What emerges is that food can be a fertile ground for the implementation of a circular economy’s principle and could also provide support in understanding its evolution and adjusting its objectives accordingly. Food is strategic and could be a perfect field for testing a new approach to raw material and waste and for the development of a new context of inquiry, defined as “Circular Economy for Food”. Full article
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Communication
Sustainability Assessment of Asset Management Decisions for Wastewater Infrastructure Systems—Implementation of a System Dynamics Model
Systems 2019, 7(3), 34; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems7030034 - 10 Jul 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3711
Abstract
The goal of this case study is to demonstrate the application and utility of a developed System Dynamics (SD) model to assess the sustainability of strategic decisions for managing the wastewater collection (WWC) pipe network system for a medium-size municipality in Southern Ontario. [...] Read more.
The goal of this case study is to demonstrate the application and utility of a developed System Dynamics (SD) model to assess the sustainability of strategic decisions for managing the wastewater collection (WWC) pipe network system for a medium-size municipality in Southern Ontario. Two asset management scenarios, suggested by the research-partnered municipality, are adapted based on the acceptable maximum fraction of pipes in the worst condition (ICG5) being equal to (1) 10% of the network-length/year, and (2) the initial 2.8% of network-length/year for the entire life cycle of the asset. The urban densification scenarios are restricted to a 50% urban densification rate. The least maximum rehabilitation rates of 1.41% and 1.85% of network length/year are found necessary to keep the ICG5 pipes fractions below the selected 10% and 2.8% thresholds, respectively. The maximum and minimum user fee-hike rates for WWC and wastewater treatment (WWT) services are adjusted to support the financial self-sustainability aspect. Results from the SD model, as presented over a 100 year simulation period, show that an accelerated rehabilitation strategy will have a lower financial cost with the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This study highlights the implications of integrating asset management of wastewater-collection and -treatment systems. Applying such an integrated SD model will help decision makers to forecast the future trends related to social, economic, and environmental performances of wastewater infrastructure systems, and evaluate the behavior of interrelated and complex WWC and WWT systems to find synergistic cost-saving opportunities while at the same time improve sustainability. Full article
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Article
Measuring the Change Towards More Sustainable Mobility: MUV Impact Evaluation Approach
Systems 2019, 7(2), 30; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems7020030 - 20 Jun 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 4002
Abstract
Urban areas can be considered the ground for the challenges related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective of shaping cities as human settlement that will see a more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable future is often argued in literature as [...] Read more.
Urban areas can be considered the ground for the challenges related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective of shaping cities as human settlement that will see a more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable future is often argued in literature as an issue dependent on behavioral change of inhabitants in urban areas. In this paper, the authors question if experimental applications based on gamification can co-produce more sustainable neighborhoods through an impact evaluation method that departs from individual choices within the complex of urban mobility. This investigation is carried out within MUV (Mobility Urban Values), an EU research and innovation project, which aims to trigger more sustainable urban mobility in six pilot cities. This article describes the critical method of validation, an impact assessment of the MUV experimental gamification in the pilot cities, in order to represent a proof for future urban strategies. This methodological approach is based on an evaluation structured on indicators of both impact and process suitable for urban contexts. As based on six pilot cities, with possibilities for transferability to other contexts and scalability to other cities, the method represents a reference work for the evaluation of similar experimental applications. Full article
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Article
Addressing the Sustainability Issue in Smart Cities: A Comprehensive Model for Evaluating the Impacts of Electric Vehicle Diffusion
Systems 2019, 7(2), 29; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems7020029 - 15 Jun 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3776
Abstract
The present paper proposes a model for evaluating environmental, social, and economic impacts exerted by the diffusion of electric vehicles (EVs), which is a phenomenon that can significantly affect the achievement of some of the objectives set by the Sustainable Development Agenda. The [...] Read more.
The present paper proposes a model for evaluating environmental, social, and economic impacts exerted by the diffusion of electric vehicles (EVs), which is a phenomenon that can significantly affect the achievement of some of the objectives set by the Sustainable Development Agenda. The impact evaluation is carried out through the System Dynamics methodology, combined with scenario analysis. Considering the Piedmont region (Italy) as a case study, the model forecasts the impacts of EV diffusion using a simulation timeframe of 12 years and leveraging eight EV diffusion scenarios. According to the model, an increase in the number of EVs results in less air pollution and, therefore, minor public health expenditure. These cost savings can be turned into incentives for purchasing new EVs, which make the fleet increasingly greener as part of a self-reinforcing loop. Despite the fact that the model could be improved through additional research on some variables’ definitions, this ex ante evaluation tool represents a valuable instrument for policy-makers. In fact, it provides a comprehensive picture of EV diffusion in view of the triple sustainability principles: System Dynamics, in particular, allows singling out causal relationships among variables, thus anticipating possible effects of planned policy actions. Full article
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Article
Sustainability Assessment of Asset Management Decisions for Wastewater Infrastructure Systems—Development of a System Dynamic Model
Systems 2019, 7(2), 26; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems7020026 - 13 May 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 5438
Abstract
This paper presents the development of a novel system dynamics (SD) model for better understanding the interrelation and feedback mechanism between the wastewater collection (WWC) and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) systems. Causal loop diagrams (CLDs) are developed and discussed to depict and understand [...] Read more.
This paper presents the development of a novel system dynamics (SD) model for better understanding the interrelation and feedback mechanism between the wastewater collection (WWC) and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) systems. Causal loop diagrams (CLDs) are developed and discussed to depict and understand feedback and inter-connections between physical, financial, and consumer sectors. The developed SD model is then extended to include the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as a proxy for the environmental sector and for an environmental sustainability assessment of strategic decisions related to asset management planning of wastewater infrastructure system. It also adds new policy levers, such as population growth and urban densification in the social sector, and minimum fee-hike rates in the finance sector to enhance the representation of real-world conditions in the asset management planning. This new SD model will enable decision-makers to assess the sustainability impacts of their strategic decisions on wastewater systems, find synergistic cost-saving opportunities, and improve the sustainability performance of their asset management plans. Full article
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