The Natural Step “is an international not-for-profit organisation (sic) dedicated to education, advisory work and research in sustainable development. Since 1989, we have worked with thousands of corporations, municipalities, academic institutions and not-for-profit organisations (sic) that have proven that moving strategically toward sustainability leads to new opportunities, reduced costs, and dramatically reduced ecological and social impacts.”
In Paul Hawken’s revolutionary 1993 book The Ecology of Commerce, he provides an overview on the historical and biological foundation of the Natural Step.
One of Sweden’s leading cancer researchers addresses the problem of man-made toxins at the cellular level. Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert has been educating Swedish citizens and leaders for many years by creating a consensus on the root cause of environmental damage. His process, called the Natural Step, begins with cellular biology, because it is the basis for all life: ‘The cell is only concerned with conditions necessary for sustaining and propagating life. It also reminds us that we are inescapably part of nature: There is much less difference between the cell of a human and that of a plant than is commonly understood.’
By looking at the relationship between nature and man, Dr. Robert seeks to align the two. The four guidelines of the Natural Step state that in a sustainable society,
- Nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust
- Nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances produced by society
- Nature is not subject to increasing degradation by physical means
- People are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs
One of the major challenges facing this movement is the paradigm of man vs. nature; or man the exploiter. However, companies across the world are working to connect their principles with the natural world. In Portland, Oregon, businesses are applying the Natural Step philosophy to create a more sustainable existence. SustainLane ranks Portland as the most sustainable American city. Over the next several days, various posts will focus on companies in Portland that are using The Natural Step as their guiding philosophy. These companies range from Fortune 500 to small businesses that are just starting to develop.
- Eric Wilson
[image source: Natural Step]