The Natural Step was developed in Sweden in 1989 by Dr. Karl-Henrik
Robert. Robert used a consensus process involving the country's top
scientists to define principles of a sustainable society. The
principles look at the earth as a complex system of which humans are
an integral part.
The four systems conditions listed form the basis
of the Natural Step. The four conditions mean
- 1. Material that humans take out of the earth such as lead and mercury can't be allowed
to accumulate in the environment. The environment and health-related issues due to lead and
mercury are probably the most well known problems the first condition addresses.
- 2. Material that are created by humans can't build up faster then the ecosystem can
break them down. Examples of this range from materials which are harmful in relatively small
doses such as DDT, PCBs and ozone-depleting chemicals, to materials which are less harmful but
are being produced in very large quantities, such as CO2.
- 3. Human activity cannot destroy the ability of the earth to provide the services we need.
Examples include farming practices that cause erosion or land use practices that destroy the
flood calming and water filtering abilities of wetlands.
- 4. Resources need to be used equitably and efficiently. Equitable distribution means
that poor people will not have to destroy their natural resources just to survive in the short term.
The Natural Step process helps companies to understand the connections
between their business and the earth's ecological and social
processes. The Natural Step in many ways is a continuation of other
efforts by business to improve their processes and reduce their impact
on the world. These other efforts have included Total Quality
Management, Total Quality Environmental Management, pollution
prevention, toxics use reduction, design for the environment, ISO
9000, and ISO 14000. The Natural Step moves beyond these to focus on
how businesses will work in a sustainable society. The Natural Step
U.S. web site is: