The Natural Step (TNS) slices through the confusion about sustainable development and is being applied by businesses and investigated by governments
Devised in Sweden by Dr Karl-Henrik Robért, The Natural Step is a scientifically approved approach to applying sustainable development in practical ways by organisations of every kind. It is being applied in Sweden and tried out in the UK, Australia and the USA by both businesses and governments. The consensus among scientists was agreed first in Sweden and followed by statements agreed among scientists in the USA (the "Wingspread Declaration") and in Australia - as reported in The Natural Step UK, the free newsletter published in July 1998 - see below.
Dr Robért, a cancer scientist, worked with other scientists from a wide cross-section of disciplines to develop a consensus, based on the laws of thermodynamics, on the four systems conditions that organisations must work towards to achieve sustainable development. These systems conditions are:
See also the web sites for The Natural Step in Sweden & UK, and as an important global idea.
Science lies at the heart of The Natural Step and using the scientific consensus approach developed in Sweden the scientific community in the UK will be engaged and challenged focusing on the TNS Systems Conditions. Advice and assistance will be provided by Dr Eileen Buttle, former Secretary of the Natural Environment Research Council and member of the Advisory Committee for the European Environment Agency; Dr David Fisk, Chief Scientist at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the the Regions; and Dr Jan Pentreath, Chief Scientist at The Environment Agency. A regular briefing paper from a scientific perspective, Stepping Stones, has been well-received and will continue through 1998.
To apply these conditions businesses seek to move from linear industrial processes to cyclical and every business can ask itself the following questions:
For more information about The Natural Step International contact Magnus Huss at firstname.lastname@example.org. The ideas are being applied in Australia, Canada, Japan, Sweden, South Africa, Netherlands, New Zealand, as well as the United Kingdom and the United States - see the international web site.
An interview describing how The Natural Step started in Sweden is described on a web site. In Sweden Electrolux, Ikea, Swedish Rail, Scandic Hotels and McDonald's are applying the approach. The Natural Step in the UK is developing its own web site but meanwhile an explanation of applications by the Co-operative Bank, Electrolux and Ikea are included in Building to Last by Colin Hutchinson. In the USA The Natural Step initiative is led by Paul Hawken, author of The Ecology of Commerce.
The business partners in the continuing TNS network are:
Although each project has been different, the general model used in all of them is :
Identify the project focus which is related to current work and driven by business needs.
Bring in stakeholders who may be internal or external to the main partner organisation, but are crucial to the success of the project.
Run awareness raising workshops to build understanding of the conditions for sustainability and of The Natural Steps approach and to establish a shared language and concept of sustainable development within the project team. The core concepts of The Natural Step include the systems thinking, the natural cycle, the system conditions for sustainability, and the process of creating a vision of sustainability and backcasting from that the present to build an incremental plan for attaining sustainability.
Run applications workshops using The Natural Steps approach to review existing practice, create a vision of a future sustainable alternative to it, back-cast and identify small steps as part of the incremental plan that the team can put into practice or recommend to the wider organisation.
Implement the small steps which can include communicating the reasons why the changes are being made to a wider circle of people, sometimes involving further awareness raising workshops.
What we have learnt
The features of The Natural Steps approach which have been important for peoples learning are :
What some participants have said
The above account of TNS in UK is from a paper by Penny Walker, an independent facilitator and trainer
specialising in sustainable development, produced for Green Learning in the Workplace,
1999. For a longer version of this paper, contact Penny Walker direct: Penny Walker
Associates, 92 Winston Road, London N16 9LR, telephone: 0171 254 3500, fax: 0171 275
7675 or email: PennyWalker@compuserve.com.
Alternatively The Natural Step, 9 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1QB,
telephone: 01242 262744, fax: 01242 524445 or email: email@example.com and website:
The above account of TNS in UK is from a paper by Penny Walker, an independent facilitator and trainer specialising in sustainable development, produced for Green Learning in the Workplace, 1999. For a longer version of this paper, contact Penny Walker direct: Penny Walker Associates, 92 Winston Road, London N16 9LR, telephone: 0171 254 3500, fax: 0171 275 7675 or email: PennyWalker@compuserve.com. Alternatively The Natural Step, 9 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1QB, telephone: 01242 262744, fax: 01242 524445 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org and website: www.naturalstep.org.uk.
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Last up dated 20 September 1999