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Published by Shawn Tisdell
The Natural Step Framework Guidebook
The Natural Step Framework Guidebook

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Published by: Shawn Tisdell on Jan 15, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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© 2000 The Natural Step. All rights reserved.
"The Natural Step," "Natural Step," the Natural Step logo and "TNS" are among the trademarks of The Natural Step.No individual or entity may identify itself as a representative of The Natural Step or as presenting Natural Step
workshops, programs or materialsunless it has an express license or written permission from The Natural Step to do so or is a current employee of The Natural Step.
The TNS Framework is a methodology for success-ful organizational planning,developed by The Nat-ural Step.It enables organizations to create optimalstrategies for dealing with the present-day situation,by incorporating a perspective ofa sustainablefuture.Today’s perception ofwhat can be achievednever determines the direction ofchange,solely itspace.This results in investments and activities thatnot only move the organization toward sustainabil-ity,but also maximize short-term profitability andlong-term flexibility.The TNS Framework hashelped many organizations around the worldproactively embrace sustainability as a strategicopportunity rather than an unknown liability.
The Natural Step is an international organizationthat helps organizations move strategically towardsustainability.The Natural Step's approach is:o to continuously develop the TNS Framework,and the tools related to it,in association with clients and scientists.o to support the implementation and use of the TNS Framework in companies andother organizations,through training and asconsultant advisors.o to provide a forum for dialogue,particularly for decision-makers capable ofinfluencingideas and becoming global role models inthe field ofsustainable development.
In the quest for good health,welfare and economicprosperity,we are systematically destroying the sys-tem that we,as humans,are completely dependentupon - nature.Life-sustaining natural resources,such as clean air and clean water,are subject toincreasing deterioration due to human activity.Forests are being lost and species extinction is gath-ering pace.At the same time,nature’s long-termproductive capacity is being degraded in fields,forests and oceans.As a result,we have to inputmore resources to harvest or catch as much as wedid last year.For example,to obtain the sameamounts offood,wood and other raw materials,weneed bigger fishing boats,more energy,more pesti-cides and more fertilisers.
Fig.1 A Global Perspective
The reason for nature’s reduced productive poten-tial is that we are polluting and displacing nature invarious ways.Renewable resources are being usedup at such a rate that nature does not have time tobuild new ones.At the same time,there are moreand more people on earth in need oftheseresources,and the gap between rich and poor iswidening.Its as ifall ofcivilization is moving intoa funnel whose narrowing walls demonstrate thatthere is less and less ‘room for maneuver’.
Fig.2 The Funnel
Everyone is in this funnel,from the smallest family to the largest multi-national corporation,and it hasa direct bearing not only upon us as a society,butalso upon the economy.Increasingly,organizationsare noticing that changes in demand,rising rawmaterials and waste handling costs,punitive taxa-tion,more rigorous demands from lenders,andother factors in the market are already starting toaffect their daily operations.While sudden economic setbacks may be viewed as‘bad luck’,we know that the room for maneuver of any activity is constantly diminishing.The ‘badluck’is usually caused by earlier investments intechniques or activities contributing to ecologicalnon-sustainability or undermining human needs.The self-benefit ofbeing able to avoid many of these setbacks in the future is obvious,an effectivestrategy is fundamental ifwe are to avoid ‘bad luck’and create opportunities.
The TNS Framework enables an organization tointegrate business development with sustainablity.This strategic approach ofsystematically moving anorganization toward sustainability can easily be jus-tified on the grounds ofimproved competitivenessalone.By expanding their room for maneuver,organizations are improving their prospects for thefuture.The self-benefit stems from harnessinginevitable changes in:oraw materials costsoenergy costsocosts ofwasteoenvironmental legislationodifferentiated taxationoinsurance premiumsocredit ratingsocustomer needsoemployee needsobrand value driversWith the help ofthe TNS Framework,many orga-nizations have reduced costs,improved quality andproductivity,identified new customers and mar-kets,and have avoided future liabilities.Although long-term financial results will improveas an organization evolves in a sustainable direc-tion,the risk ofbeing too far ahead ofthe marketneeds to be considered.However,that risk must bebalanced with the greater risk ofbeing too late toevolve.The key is to be on the "leading edge",andusing the TNS Framework has helped many organi-zations do just that.
The TNS Framework is based upon a methodknown as backcasting – looking at the current situ-ation from a future perspective.Initially,you envis-age a successful result in this future scenario;then, you ask:What can we do today to reach that result?This allows you to make sure that your actions andstrategy are taking you in the direction that youwish to head,that they align with your vision.Thismay seem simple and obvious,but many people donot do it,and without backcasting you can notstrategically pursue a future vision.A prerequisite for backcasting is obviously to knowwhat constitutes the future scenario you are head-ing for.In terms ofplanning from a sustainablefuture scenario,this approach would appear flawed,as we can not accurately predict and agree upon thefuture precisely.However,despite not being able tooutline a sustainable future scenario in detail,wecan agree upon basic conditions that must apply inany sustainable society.These basic principles,orconditions,can serve as a lighthouse to guide us,enabling us to backcast with confidence from afuture sustainability perspective.These conditions,known as the system conditions have been devel-oped and agreed upon by an international networkofscientists.By using backcasting,in line with thesystem conditions,targets and measures can bechosen that combine long-term flexibility withshort-term profitability.This approach means that the strategy focuses onthe causes ofenvironmental and social problemsrather than reacting to the effects ofthem.Invest-ments and measures are selected to tackle today’sproblems without creating further problems in thefuture.Strategies and measures taken will obviously vary between organizations,but the over-all direc-tion will be the same - toward alignment with thesystem conditions.It is also important to remember

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