Sustainability as an innovation magnet

The Natural Step

The Natural Step & FSSD

T he Natural Step is an international not for profit organization dedicated to sustainable development. The Natural Step acts as a catalyst for society, bringing about systemic change by giving decision‐makers a common, science‐based understanding of sustainability, and a framework to make decisions in a genuinely sustainable way (social, ecological and economical). FUTURE-PROOFinc. is a member of the The Natural Step network (through The Netherlands and Portugal offices) and is applying and co-developing the latest approaches, tools, materials and case studies.

The Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development ‐ commonly called The Natural Step Framework after the organization promoting its development, application and dissemination ‐ has been developed, tested and applied together with researchers, business and political leaders and practitioners all around the world over the last 25 years. It underpins and has inspired many of the world’s pioneering sustainability initiatives and organizations.

What makes the framework unique is that it is proven on 3 arenas:

  • It is built on scientific consensus, with PhDs, peer‐reviewed articles, and international scientific recognition.
  • It has been used by practitioners all over the world in organizations of all fields and scales.
  • It can be used to analyze and relate all sustainability tools and concepts to one another and to the goal of sustainability.

The framework consists of 5 logically connected levels: System, Success, Strategic, Actions and Tools. Based on understanding the system, a definition of success can be derived, to devise a strategy, define appropriate actions and select effective tools. The core of the FSSD methodology is based on four conditions that, stated as principles, can guide concrete actions for a sustainable business and society. The set of principles meet criteria of being: Necessary, Sufficient, General, Concrete and Distinct/Non-Overlapping.

Based on a clear definition and vision of where we want to be (e.g. thrive within nature’s limits) it is possible to be strategic and Backcast from sustainability principles to determine where we are now, what can de done to close the gap and prioritize.

The concept of strategic sustainable development is about finding ways to satisfy our current and future fundamental (human) needs in a way that does not undermine the balance of social and ecological systems.  The illustration below shows how we are living unsustainably at present.

The Natural Step - Human influence

The four system conditions

Based on a thorough analysis of the ‘Big picture’ of the social and ecological systems and root causes of human (unsustainable) behavior, conditions for a sustainable society were derived.

In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing

… stuff from the Earth

… concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust (e.g. fossil carbon, minerals and heavy metals);
To move towards sustainable development, we need a systematic replacement of certain materials (fossil carbons, minerals and metals) that are rare in nature with those that are abundant in nature. We also need to (re)use all mined materials more efficiently and systematically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

… stuff created by society

… concentrations of substances produced by society (e.g. NOx, oil-based plastics and endocrine disruptors);
To move towards sustainable development, we must systematically replace certain persistent and unnatural compounds (synthetics) with those that are naturally abundant or that easily break down in nature. We also need to increase the effective use of all substances produced by the society and release them at a pace that is not overloading the balancing ability of nature.

…physical break-down

… degradation by physical means (e.g. changed land use, overfishing, leakages);
To move towards sustainable development, we are need to only use resources from well-balanced ecosystems. We also need to systematically use local resources and land in a productive and efficient manner and be cautious in all kinds of changes in the environment (e.g. influencing Earth’s natural cycles and biodiversity by a.o. changed land use, aquifer depletion, introducing exotic plant and animal species, leakage or mismanagement of synthetics, traffic infrastructure, deforestation, overfishing).

And in that society …

… undermining of capacity to meet needs

… people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs. (e.g. creating barriers through the abuse of physical, social, political and economic power)
To move towards sustainable development we need to create and support measures and strategies to overcome the obstacles that undermine the ability of people to meet their basic human needs. (e.g. unsafe working conditions, wages that people cannot live from, education that is unaffordable, and wasteful/ unfair resource distribution.

We offer different types of solutions based on applications of the FSSD, either to help you understand the value by making that more concrete, or to support you in strategically realizing your full potential.

FUTURE-PROOFinc. has a deep understanding of (the science behind) the framework, the experiences and achievements with the FSSD in the past 25 years globally and of the applications on the individual, organizational and systems level. We combine this with our management and consulting experience, business knowledge, market intelligence and capable network of senior professionals.


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