The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development

"The achievement of sustainability objectives will require holistic actions by all sections of society and will require considerable cultural change to societal customs and aspirations. This necessitates the development of transitional pathways from the present situation to the preferred future."
Institution of Engineers Australia, "Towards a Sustainable Energy Future", August 2001

The Natural Advantage of Nations (Vol. I): Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century


Section 2: Natural Advantage a Business Imperative

Chapter 10: Operationalizing Natural Advantage through the Sustainability Helix
1 The business case for sustainability
1.1 The management helix for the sustainable organization (Sustainability Helix) Sustainable Business Practice
2 References List from the Book

Recently highlighted by Hunter Lovins in her Foreword

to Bob Willard's new book 'The Next Sustainability Wave'.

The Helix provides a whole-system menu that enables a business to explore, experiment, implement, and eventually mainstream its choice of sustainability strategies. It offers a sequenced flow of sustainability activities that leads to continual improvement rather than the trial and error approach that necessarily characterized the efforts of the sustainability pioneers.

Chicago Manufacturing Centre - GreenPlants Program

GreenPlants Learning Network is designed to help SME Manufacturers to become more familiar with sustainable manufacturing's premises, promises and successes. To help we have created-with the help of Hunter Lovins, author of Natural Capitalism-a web course. Introduction to the sustainability Helix. CMC wasthe first organisation to work with the Sustainability Helix to talor the material to the needs of its clients and partners.


The last three decades have been difficult for many firms. No sooner do governments set environmental standards than communities demand higher standards. Business leaders believe that there is an inherent trade-off between environmental quality and economic production; that activists do not respect this; and that the goalposts keep shifting. One of the best reasons for a company to commit to increasing its sustainability is that it is the best way to avoid this dilemma. Once firms adopt a sustainability orientation, the shifting challenges become a rationale for continual improvement leading to mutually reinforcing environmental and economic outcomes: that is, to sustainable development.

So far, in this section, we have demonstrated why companies should achieve both pioneering and systemic change, and how many are doing so. The arguments for the adoption of sustainable development practices are becoming increasingly clear to business. A further indication of this commitment is shown by the number of organizations that are members of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) (2300 and growing), and have signed the ‘Business Charter for Sustainable Development’. ICC members include such corporations as Norsk Hydro, Deloitte & Touche, Akzo Nobel and Xerox. Increasingly, the focus of the international business community is on the challenge of finding genuine solutions to the problems of development. At the core of sustainable development is the concept of resource productivity and ensuring that resources are used to benefit society. We have shown how doing this can lower costs; reduce hazards through designing out toxics and carcinogens; and build brand equity.

Firms that adopt sustainable development as a core principle are strategically positioning themselves to achieve lasting competitive advantage by:


(1) Staying ahead of government regulations, broader societal changes and community expectations;

(2) Capitalizing on an increasing number of market-based mechanisms, such as cap and trade schemes for greenhouse gas emissions, i.e. the Chicago Climate Exchange and the European Climate Exchange; and

(3) Foreseeing and avoiding major threats and adapting to major societal changes through applying Porter’s 5 Forces Model with the latest consensus on the potential sixth force as outlined in this section.

This section has shown that there is much that business can do in the coming century to increase competitive advantage in ways that are complimentary to the environment and the world’s communities. As the understanding of the challenge broadens, so too does the realization that we all have a role to play: both as individuals and as a members of the various teams we are involved with. The work in this section, along with the growing volume of international material on this subject, suggests that, for firms, it is clear that sustainability needs to be implemented under the following activity streams:


 - Governance and Management;

 - Operations and Facilities;

 - Design and Process Innovation;

 - Human Resource Development and Corporate Culture;

 - Marketing and communications; and

 - Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement.




16-17 Nov 2004: Applying the Sustainability Helix, (Chicago, USA) in partnership with Chicago Manufacturing Centre and Natural Capitalism Inc.

The Sustainability Helix and Implementation Tool, developed in partnership between TNEP and Hunter Lovins and the team from Natural Capitalism, Inc., was delivered as a training and strategic assistance tool through a 2 day stakeholder workshop. The structure of the Sustainability Helix provides a step-by-step approach for business to assist in creating a "Green Plant" and will be scaled to the needs of small and midsize manufacturers. In further developing the GreenPlants Program, the Chicago Manufacturing Centre (CMC) is consulting with state and local government and community-based organizations to factor in the social impact of sustainable enterprise development.

GreenPlants promotes and helps small and midsize manufacturers in the Chicago metropolitan region implement-step by step-sustainable or green manufacturing practices. The aim for the GreenPlants' initiative expand on Mayor Richard Daley's goal to make the city the greenest in the nation. CMC wants to make Chicago the "greenest and most sustainable" industrial region in the country.

(Pictured: Workshop participants, TNEP's Nick Palousis far right)


References from the Book

1. Endorsement of the ICC Charter is voluntary where the companies that sign it commit themselves to respecting its 16 principles for environmental management. The ICC reviews how companies that have endorsed the Charter are applying the principles.