Educating Worldshapers 6
Sustainable Business and the Natural Step
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden
The Masters in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability program at the Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden is founded on teaching students the basic premise that to achieve ‘success’ – i.e. a sustainable society – there must be a focus on an imagined principle outcome of success as a “sustainable society in the biosphere”. From this understanding, one can “backcast” to the present and begin to take action as part of a clearly focused strategy.
Students will also build their personal leadership capabilities in the context of organizational learning. How does change happen? What role can an individual within an organization play? What approaches are most effective?
The aim of this program is for each Master’s graduate to:
* Have a thorough understanding of an intellectually strict, widely applicable framework for sustainable development (known in the business community as “The Natural Step Framework”),
* Be able to apply the framework, in a range of situations, for an analysis of problems as well as creation of solutions,
* Be able to select, design and apply a range of complimentary and cohesive tools and concepts as part of a strategic approach to sustainability,
* Be able to demonstrate an in-depth, sophisticated application of the framework (as part of a group thesis); and
* To develop enhanced leadership capabilities and the ability to inform and empower through an improved awareness of organisational and personal learning as well as improved presentation, facilitation and coaching skills
By combining the clear and logical structure with a focus on leadership skills, graduates will be able to enter the professional arena with an energetic and inspired approach to societal and organizational change. By helping students to achieve these goals, the program will make a substantial contribution to a growing worldwide network of professional practitioners in sustainable development.
The Natural Step
The Natural Step is a nonprofit organization founded in Sweden in 1989 by Swedish scientist, Karl-Henrik Robèrt. The Natural Step has pioneered a “Backcasting from Principles” approach to effectively advance society towards sustainability. The Natural Step has developed through a consensus process a systematic principle definition of sustainability.
Following publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, Robèrt developed The Natural Step Framework, setting out the system conditions for the sustainability of planet Earth. Robèrt’s four system conditions are derived from the laws of thermodynamics.
The Natural Step Framework’s definition of sustainability includes four system conditions (scientific principles) that lead to a sustainable society.
In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing:
– concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust;
– concentrations of substances produced by society;
– degradation by physical means
and, in that society. . .
– people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.
(From Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Natural_Step)
The Natural Step Framework Four Conditions for Sustainability
By Terry Gips, President, Alliance for Sustainability
1. What We Take From the Earth: Mining and Fossil Fuels – Avoid “systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the earth’s crust.” Simply, we need to use renewable energy and nontoxic, reusable materials to avoid the spread of hazardous mined metals and pollutants. Why? Mining and burning fossil fuels release a wide range of substances that do not go away, but rather, continue to build up and spread in our ecosphere. Nature has adapted over millions of years to specific amounts of these materials. Cells don’t know how to handle significant amounts of lead, mercury, radioactive materials and other hazardous compounds from mining, often leading to learning disabilities, weakening of immune systems and improper development of the body. The burning of fossil fuels generates dangerous levels of pollutants contributing to smog, acid rain and global climate change.
Action: We can support policies and take action to reduce our overall energy use. We can drive less, carpool, use public transportation, ride bikes or walk. We can conserve energy through energy-efficient lighting, proper insulation, passive solar, and reduced heating and cooling. We can support a shift to renewable energy such as solar and wind power instead of nuclear, coal or petroleum. We can also decrease our use of mined metals and minerals through recycling, reuse and preferably, reduced consumption. We also can avoid chemical fertilizers.
2. What We Make: Chemicals, Plastics and Other Substances – Nature must not “be subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances produced by society.” Simply, we need to use safe, biodegradable substances that do not cause the spread of toxins in the environment. Why? Since World War II, our society has produced more than 85,000 chemicals, such as DDT and PCBs. Many of these substances do not go away, but rather, spread and bio-accumulate in nature and the fat cells of animals and humans. Cells don’t know how to handle significant amounts of these chemicals, often leading to cancer, hormone disruption, improper development, birth defects and long-term genetic change.
Action: We can support green procurement policies and use non-toxic natural cleaning materials and personal care products. We can decrease our use of plastics and reuse the ones we have, such as plastic bags, plates, cups and eating utensils. We can stop using CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances. We can use safe, natural pest control in our schools, parks, homes, lawns and gardens. We can support farmers in becoming sustainable and eliminating hazardous pesticides by voting with our dollars for certified organic food and clothing. We can support the elimination of factory farm feedlots and manure ponds that cause air and water pollution.
3. What We Do to the Earth: Biodiversity and Ecosystems – Nature must not “be subject to degradation by physical means.” Simply, we need to protect our soils, water and air, or we won’t be able to eat, drink or breathe. Why? Forests, soils, wetlands, lakes, oceans and other naturally productive eco-systems provide food, fiber, habitat and oxygen, waste handling, temperature moderation and a host of other essential goods and services. For millions of years they have been purifying the planet and creating a habitat suitable for human and other life. When we destroy or deplete these systems, we endanger both our livelihoods and the likelihood of human existence.
Action: We can purchase certified, sustainably-harvested forest products rather than destroying rainforests. We can reduce or eliminate our consumption of products that are not sustainably harvested, such as certain types of fish and seafood. We can shop with reusable bags rather than using more paper bags. We can decrease our use of water and use composting toilets that return valuable nutrients to the earth. We can fight urban sprawl and encourage the cleaning up of brown fields and other contaminated sites. We can support smart growth and safeguard endangered species by protecting wildlife habitat.
4. Meeting Basic Human Needs – “Human needs are met worldwide.” Simply, we can use less stuff and save money while meeting the needs of every human on this planet. Why? The US makes up only 4% of the world’s population but consumes about 25% of its resources. The people living in the lowest 20% by income receive only 1.4% of the world’s income. Just to survive, they see no choice but to cut down rainforests, sell endangered species, and use polluting energy sources.
Action: Make business, government and nonprofits aware that we can achieve the ten-fold increase in efficiency needed to become sustainable, and, in some cases, a 100-fold increase in productivity that will save money, create jobs and reduce waste as part of a new Industrial Revolution. We can encourage discussions about basic needs (see the work of Manfred Max-Neef ), ask if we really need more stuff, and design our workplaces, homes and organizations to give us more of what we want (healthy, attractive and nurturing environments) and less of what we don’t want (pollution, stress and expense).