Together with their network of best in class sustainability professionals, the Natural Capitalism staff has an impressive record in developing innovative and practical ways to increase efficiency and environmental practices, as well as economic sustainability, for a long list of government and corporate clients.
Natural Capitalism Solutions, a 501(c)3 non-profit, was founded by Hunter Lovins and David Elliot in 2002 after Hunter left Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), which she cofounded 20 years earlier. Hunter wanted to establish an organization that collaborated with like-minded experts to implement the principles of Natural Capitalism. Over the years, the organization has remained small, collaborative, and successful in educating and implementing genuine sustainability.
As a non-profit, we are guided by our mission and founding principles and our projects focus on education, consulting, and maintaining a free resource library.
The organization is based on the principles presented in the acclaimed book Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, co-authored by the organization’s leader Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism Solutions has transformed the original Natural Capitalism Principles, into a leading whole-system sustainability framework. Since the book’s publication in 1999, Hunter and her colleagues have helped companies and communities use these principles to capture the economic advantages of sustainability. The principles reduce capital investment and operating costs, drive profitability, and generate market leadership advantages.
The principles used by Natural Capitalism Solutions are:
1. Buy time by using resources dramatically more productively.
This slows resource depletion, lessens pollution, and increases employment in meaningful jobs. It lowers costs for business and society, halts the degradation of the biosphere, makes it more profitable to employ people, and preserves vital living systems and social cohesion.
2. Redesign industrial processes and the delivery of products and services to do business as nature does, using such approaches as biomimicry and cradle to cradle.
This approach enables a wide array of materials to be produced with sunlight using processes that emulate nature’s genius. It emphasizes Walter Stahel’s concept of the circular economy and cradle to cradle manufacturing in which waste is eliminated, materials are reused, and products are remanufactured.
3. Manage all institutions to be regenerative of natural and human capital.
Such approaches implement the concept of ecological economics to create sustainable prosperity “improving human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risk an ecological scarcities.” This supports the ability to produce more wealth in intact communities with abundant ecosystem services and natural resources.
The term sustainability can have different meaning to different people. Natural Capitalism uses the following definition. Below that are others we like.
Sustainable actions improve the human condition, meet the legitimate development aspirations of all people while they protect, preserve and restore the integrity of the earth’s life support systems.
Sustainable livelihoods are ways of living and working that honor the interconnections between healthy human communities, intact ecosystems, and prosperous economies for current and future generations.
Productive use and restoration of all forms of capital creates greater wealth and well being, while solving many of the crises now facing the world.
- human capital, in the form of labor and intelligence, culture, and organization deriving from intact community;
- financial capital, consisting of cash, investments, monetary instruments, and societally regulated financial institutions;
- manufactured capital, including infrastructure, machines, tools, and factories;
- natural capital, made up of resources, living systems, and services delivered from intact ecosystems.
Current economics values, measures and seeks to enhance financial and manufactured capital. But maintaining and enhancing true wealth requires intelligent management and restoration of all of the forms of human and natural capital, without which there is no life, and thus no economics. As David Brower put it, “You can’t do business on a dead planet.”
Studies by almost 50 management consulting houses, management journals, and others (Sustainability Pays) show that the companies that are the leaders in environment, social and good governance policies outperform their less sustainable competitors. When those wild-eyed environmentalists at Goldman Sachs show that the sustainability leaders have 25% higher stock value, faster stock value growth, better financial performance, and outperform the general market, there’s a business case for sustainability. Conversely, the worst performing companies are most likely to have no one in charge of sustainability.
But current financial metrics miss much of the value that sustainability confers to companies and communities. NCS uses an approach we call the Integrated Bottom Line. It demonstrates that behaving in ways that are more responsible to the earth and to people:
- reduces costs through eco-efficiency;
- provides easier access to capital;
- reduces risks by being more responsible;
- better attracts and retains the best talent;
- drives innovation by setting such ambitious goals as rapid carbon neutrality;
- enhances labor productivity by constructing green buildings;
- enhances brand equity;
- better manages supply and value chains;
- reduces the costs of distrust by operating in an ethical and transparent manner.
Such companies find themselves more immune to economic downturns. Sustainability is a competitive advantage strategy in normal times, a turn-around strategy in a downturn and a survival strategy in a collapse.
As the world shifts from the wasteful, polluting technologies of the first industrial revolution to the post-carbon age, the mental model that drives industry is also shifting. Today’s industrial capitalism has been financially profitable but only because it is based on liquidating such forms of wealth as natural and human capital. The natural resources, and more, the trillions of dollars worth of services that intact ecosystems give to our economy, and the adaptive values that intact community gives to our society, have all been treated as having a value of zero.
This is neither good business nor good capitalism. The Next Industrial Revolution will deliver genuine human well-being and happiness while enhancing the agility of the biosphere to sustain life’s diversity and integrity.
Sustainable Development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
– Brundtland World Commission on the Environment and Development
Sustainable development is a process which enables all people to realize their potential and improve their quality of life in ways which protect and enhance the Earth’s life-support systems.
– Sarah Parkin & Jonathan Porritt, Forum for the Future
Continuous improvement of life quality that protects and balances the ecological, social and economic environments.
– California Student Sustainability Coalition
Diverse and rewarding lifestyles that many would want to emulate, and if they all did, the planet’s natural systems and wildlife populations would flourish, increasingly, each generation. Satisfying lives for all people while living within the means of nature. This requires that people do not use more ecological services than nature can regenerate.
Ever wondered what a negawatt was? Does your skins get all itchy at the mention of mips? Never known why a keystone species was important? Wrinkle your brow at the thought of reverse logistics? Frown no more. These, and other such terms bandied about by the sustainability movement, have been neatly assembled into a searchable dictionary. Founded by Nathan Shedroff, check out the Dictionary of Sustainable Management project.
Walking Our Talk
NCS is serious about sustainability. We don’t just educate around it, everyone, including our board, staff, and affiliates seek to cut their and the organization’s negative footprint.
Focus Areas: Office Location, Carpooling, Alternative Transportation, Telecommuting, Carbon Offsetting
Transportation to work and business meetings makes up a large part of the impact of any service organization. NCS tackles its transportation related impact in a variety of ways. In 2009 we relocated our office to a central location for our staff. The portion of our people who live in, or pass through, Boulder meet at a designated location each morning to carpool to work. Biking (or roller skiing) to work is encouraged. Some staff regularly take two wheels to get to work, some take the bus. Everyone is encouraged to participate in our annual bike to work day. We ride through Boulder picking up the yummy breakfasts provided by local establishments then make the 15 mile bike ride to the office. On the summer Bike to Work day it is usually pretty hot but everyone is a trooper, whether they bike regularly or had to dust their bike off or borrow a friend’s. The ride is beautiful surrounded by hay and horse fields, ponds, and the Colorado Foothills.
On Fridays the whole office works remotely to further reduce our impact.
Finally, when air travel is required, we have always offset 100% of our emissions.
Focus Areas: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Compost
Trash is waste and waste means lost money and resources. NCS strives to reduce the amount of waste we generate. We send documents electronically and limit our printing. Paper could be the largest form of waste, instead, it is a small fraction of what we generate. All of the paper we purchase is 100% recycled with at least 30% post consumer content. All of our office furniture was reused and repurposed from other organizations. Similarly all of our kitchenware is re-useable. Our internal waste audit in 2010 revealed an 80% diversion rate for the waste that we do generate, with the bulk of the volume being recycled. In the same year we started our own compost bin outside our office.
Focus Areas: Carbon Offsetting, Everything We Do
Climate change is a driving force behind the work of our organization.We help other organizations reduce their impact on the climate and our in house sustainability initiatives have the same goal. In 2003 we were one of the first organizations to join the Chicago Climate Exchange to offset our emissions.
Energy and Water
Focus Areas: Energy Efficiency, Lighting, Water Use
Buildings account for 41% of energy use and 14% of potable water use in the US. We reduce the impact of our office as much as possible. In 2010 we upgraded our heating system to an ENERGY STAR certified furnace that was 45% more efficient than the average furnace on the market. During the winter, we keep the temperature slightly below 70 degrees and break out the sweaters. During the summer we use natural and ceiling fan ventilation to cool the office and have chosen not to install an A/C unit. NCS staff use laptops, which consume significantly less power than desktops. Rather than hosting our own internal data storage server, we use cloud storage services, preventing underutilization of unnecessary in house technology and energy waste. Our office has is day-lit so we rarely turn on any lights. When we do, we use task lighting with CFL bulbs. Finally, water is a vital resource here in Colorado so we installed faucet aerators and dual flush toilet technology to reduce our water waste.
In 2012 we replaced the old carpet with repurposed Interface carpet tiles, placed sustainable bamboo flooring in our kitchen and restroom, and installed new energy and water efficient fixtures and appliances, including an even more water efficient kitchen faucet and refrigerator. As with any remodel a few surprises caught us along the way, including some amazing art deco linoleum under two layers of old carpet. Most exciting, we uncovered the original log house foundation that dates our building at well over the 100 years we knew about.
Health and Wellness
Focus Areas: Flex Time, Health and Wellness, Education, Toxics, Dog Friendly Office
NCS cultivates a pleasant working environment that encourages productivity and wellness. In addition to the staff who bike to work, through our flex time program we encourage staff to break for an hour of afternoon exercise which usually involves Frisbee. NCS also encourages employees to seek educational opportunities outside the organization and financially supports those efforts. Cleaning products are essential to any office and we make sure ours do more good than harm by choosing the least toxic and most sustainable option. When we repainted the office in 2009 we took special care to find low VOC paint. Further brightening up the office, on many days our staff is joined by four legged friends including Lola the coon hound, Georgia the boxer, Wrangler the bull terrier and Sheriden the rescue dog.
While on tour in Australia and New Zealand in the spring of 2004, Hunter was given a Maori greeenstsone carving by the New Zealand Environment Ministry. Made of their Pounamu (New Zealand Jade) it symbolizes the connection between the earth and spirit. This carving served as the inspiration for the NCS logo.
New Zealand’s Clem Mellish and Brian Flintoff of Jade and Bonehave graciously allowed us to use a graphic representation of this carved necklace of the symbol “Ira.”
“Ira is a simple spiral representing the two opposite but complimentary life forces. When in balance these create harmony. In Maori lore, they developed from the Hani, the seeker, and Puna, the well-spring. They are present in all life as Ira Atua, the spiritual life force, and Ira Tangata the physical life force. They are personified as Rangi, the Sky Father and Papa, the Earth Mother. They are recognized in most cultures, and the similarity of this carving to the ancient Taoist Yin Yang symbol is a reminder that we all share the same earth and have much in common.”
We are proud to use this symbol as the NCS logo.
Thank you Clem & Brian. Thank you also to Charlie Hargroves and Michael Smith from The Natural Step who gave Hunter two of these necklaces while on tour in Australia in 2006. One she wears proudly around her neck, daily and the other remains framed in a place of honor in our office in Longmont.
NCS Logo for Download:
|Natural Capitalism Logo
(515 x 520 pixels, 300 DPI) ~ 260 KB .jpg file
|Natural Capitalism Logo (black & white)
(675 x 685 pixels, 300 DPI) ~ 216 KB .jpg file