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

"(Biomimicry) Introduces a concept worthy of wide exploration in a world dazzled by the industrial artefacts around us... Over the millions of years, nature's life forms through natural selection have had to live with the constraints of the entropy law on a solar budget."
Wes Jackson, The Land Institute


Reviews and Endorsements

Send us your Review and Comments

Charlie with Jonathan Porritt, Forum for the Future,

on his visit to Adelaide (photo courtesy of the

South Australian Office of Sustainability.)


Quotes from the Foreword Authors
Quotes from Australian Leaders
Quotes from International Leaders
Reviews from Readers
Australian Reviews
Australian Conservation Foundation
Australian Institute of Company Directors
CSIRO Environment and Natural Resources 
Environmental Engineering Society (Australia)
Greenleap Network
Green Building Council Australia
Manufacturing Society of Australia

Waste Management and Environment (WME)

International Reviews
Chicago Manufacturing Centre
Design Council, UK
Harvard Business School Baker Library
LEEDS School of Business, University of Colorado

Quotes from the Foreword Authors

“We have learned a lot of lessons since Natural Capitalism came out in 1999, that I think will make the next explications of this subject even more powerful and effective, so working with our Natural Project Edge collaborators I think shows great promise, these are very diligent and well informed people that I think are doing valuable work and we are looking forward to cooperating with them in ways that will help us all to learn faster and get more done better.”

Amory Lovins, Co-Author of ‘Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution’
CEO Rocky Mountain Institute

“The continuing explosion of creative and determined efforts to build a world that is environmentally, economically, socially and humanly healthy is hope-giving…If this book’s “to-do list for a sustainable civilization” is not worth the dedication of a life’s work, what is?”

Alan AtKisson, Author of ‘Believing Cassandra: An Optimist Looks at a Pessimist’s World’
CEO, AtKisson Group

“The Natural Advantage of Nations… shows that what many people saw as impossible just 15 years ago is now already happening. Within these pages you will see that there is reason for robust hope, and as you read, we hope you will be inspired to contribute to this magnificent re-evolution of human enterprise, a moment in our history when the things we make and build and grow can become a truly regenerative force”

William McDonough, Co-author ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things’
Partner, William McDonough & Partners

“Young people often ask me what gives me hope. Many things make me hopeful, but the best answer, just now, is this book… The numerous examples given here of profitable ways to improve the environment, human well-being and the bottom line. proves a belief that has grown in me for several years that while the tipping point of environmental devastation may be frighteningly close, the people with the commitment to implement the solutions we already know can solve the problems that are at hand.”

Hunter Lovins, Co-Author of ‘Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution’
President, Natural Capitalism Inc.

‘The authors of this book [have] the energy, insight and commitment to begin the discussion of what I call ‘the ultimate integration’; that is, integration of the concepts of competitiveness and Natural Capitalism.’

Michael Fairbanks, Co-author ‘Plowing the Sea: Nurturing the Hidden Sources of Growth in the Developing World’ Chair, On the Frontiers Group



Quotes from Australian Leaders

"I have been to a presentation given by some of the contributors to this book and found it inspiring as the editors were young professionals who got together to talk about sustainability issues and found that they were frustrated at not ‘doing’. So they did by contacting key people in the field of sustainability and this book is the result."

M/s Leonie Newnham, MBA, DipEd, BA, Strategic Policies and Projects, Department of Sustainability & Environment, Victoria, Australia (International Federation of Surveyors Newsletter 3/05)

“The pivotal element of this process (sustainable development) is education, and I find it really heartening that so many people are thirsty for knowledge and wanting to implement the 'new' principals and methodologies that you (TNEP) have developed and promoted. The really exciting aspect is that this drive for a sustainable future is being led by an inspirational team of Australian young engineers, in a year when we are celebrating their wider role and contributions.”

Professor Andrew Downing, President Engineers Australia 2004/05

"The editors of the Natural Advantage of Nations have put together an excellent compilation - not just of their own ideas on sustainability - but one that incorporates the ideas, attitudes and experiences of the world's leading authorities on sustainability. A book that is rich in anecdotal experience embracing all cultures and technologies. A book that is responsive to the urgent need for the education of engineers as well non technical leaders of all disciplines, who must understand and embrace the principles of sustainability to carry their businesses forward in the most competitive way, while preserving the environment for all current and future generations to enjoy. The Natural Advantage of Nations undoubtedly provides the urgently needed foundation for the new paradigm of sustainability - to promote its assimilation into every development in every sphere of industry and business around the world. I strongly endorse this book and its teachings."

Doug Jones, President Engineers Australia 2003/04

“Among the stewards of our country’s future, our young leaders are setting the pace to achieve a sustainable future. The Natural Edge Project reflects much of the Institutions thinking on sustainability and with their enthusiasm it’s bound to succeed. They’ve assembled an incredible network which will definitely ensure a positive triple bottom line and multi-sectoral involvement.”

Dr Peter Greenwood, President Engineers Australia 2001/03

“I am delighted at the achievements of two years of TNEP. The Sustainable Industries Division of the Queensland EPA is proud to have supported to project and we look forward to using the book and related educational modules. The TNEP book, The Natural Advantage of Nations, will be a very useful educational tool for government and industry in showing how to make the right steps toward a sustainable economy. The Natural Advantage of Nations will provide a graphic and compelling view of the kind of future we all might have if we truly commit to achieving sustainable development. I have ordered 100 copies of The Natural Advantage of Nations to help the sustainability leaders we have identified in Queensland industry and government. Relevant information about best practice and the lessons from industry innovators helps us build the momentum toward a Smart State economy, internationally competitive because of its sustainable industries.”

Dr John Cole, Executive Director, Sustainable Industries Division,
Environmental Protection Agency Queensland

"I strongly support the concept, outlined in this project, of a "natural capitalism"-style publication. In particular, I feel the use of such a book as a resource text in the secondary and tertiary education arenas would be extremely valuable. In fact it stands to make a very significant contribution to National awareness of the major local issues in sustainable development, both in the national context and in the context of how we see our potential contribution to unraveling the global puzzle; and in developing a sense of actual empowerment to act locally with confidence. I also strongly support the additional concept of providing, through an associated web site, electronic entry to the book materials and, for those who have read it, follow-up information, networking and discussion possibilities to maintain and build on positive motivation."

Elizabeth Heij, Facilitator, CSIRO Sustainability Network

“It is time that we made a stand and started spreading the message of how important Sustainable Development is. We see that if our clients don't adopt sustainable principles then they will go out of business. If they go then we go to, enlightened self interest really. I am in wholehearted support of your book and see it as timely in its content and message.”

Steve Gale, Australasian Sustainable Development Leader, Hatch Engineering

“Arup’s interest in The Natural Edge Project arises from wanting to be a part of an initiative that showcases sustainability success stories in the Asia Pacific Region, raises awareness of the sustainability imperative, and that encourages collaboration between industry, academia, private and public organisations. We see this project as an opportunity to further network with other like-minded individuals and organisations.”

David Singleton, Chair, Global Infrastructure Business, Arup.
Past CEO Arup Australasia

Charlie and Cheryl with David Singleton, Arup, at the 2005 Australian

Business Leaders Forum for Sustainable Development.


Quotes from International Leaders

I am particularly pleased with the new book, The Natural Advantage of Nations, which will, in effect, follow on from Natural Capitalism, and bring in newer evidence from around the world”

Amory Lovins, Co-Author of ‘Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution’
CEO Rocky Mountain Institute

"Thank you very much to Earthscan for being so considerate to send me a copy of Karlson "Charlie" Hargroves' and Michael Smith's The Natural Advantage of Nations. It is a great book following up on findings we published in Factor Four and linking it all to the business community. I also liked the emphasis on urban planning, and that in a highly unconventional manner. I shall quote Hargroves and Smith."

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, co-author of 'Factor Four' and the recently published 'Limits To Privatization'.

"I found NAON to be a encyclopedia on Sustainability and ideal for manufacturers that can not afford a Sustainability Expert... the book is a great way to learn and/or review all the key concepts and programs that are moving the world of Sustainability. It is a guide on how to position your company to profit or at least not lose out in this new world of manufacturing."

Marvin Klein, PortionPac Chemical Corporation

International and Australian Reviews

Australian Conservation Foundation - Habitat Magazine Aug 2005

Sustainability has natural advantages: if you've ever read Jared Diamond's 'Collapse' or Clive Hamilton's 'Growth Fetish', you may have wondered just what you can do to address the issue of sustainability. 'The Natural Advantage of Nations' has the answers, showing how people from all walks of life across the world can find sustainable solutions in the workplace.

Australian Institute of Company Directors - Ian Dunlop

Despite the enthusiasm generated in the 1990’s for the principles of sustainability, debate on implementing the sustainability agenda in recent time has been depressingly pedestrian. Too many senior figures in business and politics unthinkingly condemn any initiative that might endanger the holy grail of conventional economic growth. In truth, this condemnation has more to do with vested interests defending the status quo, and their aversion to innovation, than genuine concern for the longer-term national interest. In so doing, they risk directing the Australian community and business up a blind alley, which may provide some short-term benefit, but which will guarantee our long-term decline as a nation as population and resource pressures intensify.

Fortunately, leading companies are demonstrating that these attitudes are irrelevant as it becomes increasingly obvious that implementing sustainability brings enormous business opportunities along with community and economic benefits. This is highlighted in a new book “The Natural Advantage of Nations – Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century”, edited by Karlson Hargroves and Michael H. Smith. Together with Cheryl Paten and Nick Palousis, the editors make up a team of young Australian scientists and engineers known as The Natural Edge Project, hosted by Engineers Australia.The team was formed to respond to the need for professional development in the area of sustainability.

The book builds on “Natural Capitalism – the Next Industrial Revolution”, the seminal 1999 work by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins. It provides an
overview of the 21st century business case for sustainable development, incorporating key work from more than 30 of the world’s leading sustainability practitioners in business, government and civil society. Its starting point is Professor Michael Porter’s competitive advantage theory and practice which, combined with sustainability, demonstrates how the well-being of society and the environment can be improved while driving innovation in an increasingly competitive world.

Emphasis is placed on the need to develop new concepts of “well-being” and “competitiveness” along with dramatic increases in resource productivity, built around inter-disciplinary, whole systems solutions. Valuable international examples are provided, for example, from the Netherlands and China, as well as Australia. The
governance component contains thought-provoking debate on the need to address “shorttermism” and reform the fiduciary responsibilities of pension and superannuation fund trustees.

This is a dense read, but it is a powerful and important book which sets out key elements of our future prosperity in a rapidly changing world. It has great relevance for Australia as a resource-rich country with unusual sustainability challenges. It is an essential guide for all forward-thinking directors, for as Dr. Paul Weaver, one of the authors of the Dutch Sustainable Technology Programme puts it: Economic leadership in the 21st Century will lie with those nations that seize the opportunity of responding to the sustainability challenge.

The authors must be congratulated on a mammoth effort in integrating conventional economics with sustainability to form a new framework for innovation and competitiveness They also demonstrate how these issues have seized the attention of younger Australians, a good omen for our future.

Guest Reviewer Ian Dunlop, Published in DirectorBooks Catalog 2005.
Ian Dunlop, formerly a senior energy executive and CEO of AICD, currently advises
internationally on governance and sustainability issues.


Chicago Manufacturing Centre - Karen Wan

A must read for anyone serious about understanding the global phenomenon and trend of sustainable development. This comprehensive and well-documented book shows specific examples of how sustainable innovation can and needs to transform our globally linked society and economy. While it's a dense read, it's an important book.

We're using this book at the Chicago Manufacturing Center to generate ideas for our GreenPlants program that helps manufacturers change to sustain in an incredibly competitive global economy. Contrary to the popular idea that business and environmental and societal stewardship are at odds, the Natural Advantage demonstrates that the time for new multi-stakeholder collaborations between industry, government, and the global community is here.

Karen Wan, GreenPlants Program Director Chicago Manufacturing Center



CSIRO Environment and Natural Resources

CSIRO is pleased to be a sponsor of The Natural Edge Project, and of the book resulting from the efforts of its two prime movers, Charlie Hargroves and Michael Smith.  "The Natural Advantage of Nations" promises to be a work of inspiring impact, bringing together as it does leading thinkers from business, economics, technology, innovation and the environment to tackle the major challenge of the 21st Century - sustainability.

The book is built upon the premise that achievement of sustainability rests upon cooperation across business, government and civil society. It is widely understood that we must shift towards a sustainable future, and increasingly it is agreed that in order to do so we must move beyond rhetoric and into hard-edged, pragmatic forward steps.

This book is a vital contribution to that forward movement, and I commend it to you.

Dr Steve Morton Group Chair, Environment and Natural Resources CSIRO



CSIRO ECOS Magazine - James Porteous

Nick, Charlie and Cheryl with James Porteous at the 2005 Australian

Business Leaders Forum for Sustainable Development.

After three years of dedication under the tutelage of international sustainability luminaries, and in conjunction with expert co-authors, editors Karlson Hargroves and Michael Smith, and colleagues Cheryl Paten and Nick Palousis, have assembled a new authoritative guide to sustainable development for the whole of society. Backed by high caliber support and affiliations, The Natural Advantage of Nations is being seen as the latest key publication on innovation, solutions, competitiveness and profitability.

The book, from Australian young engineering think tank, The Natural Edge Project (TNEP), is a response to such bestsellers as Natural Capitalism and Factor Four, which made the case for an evolved, sustainable, and profitable, global economy. This is an updated, comprehensive account that draws on a huge amount of literature, providing an overview of many of the most important innovations from around the world in how to achieve sustainable development cost effectively.

It supplies engaging international and local case-studies, and contributions from over 30 authorities such as Hunter Lovins, Bill McDonough, Amory Lovins, Dr Paul Weaver and Alan AtKisson, together with Australian leaders such as Professor Alan Pears, Dr Chris Ryan, Dr Steve Dovers, Professor Peter Newman, Emeritus Professor Val Brown, Dr Jeff Kenworthy, Dr Roger Burritt and Mark Diesendorf.

In particular, The  Natural Advantage of Nations presents a development framework, a clear blueprint for nations and business to make the switch to fully sustainable economies, and to do it profitably. It’s a framework that engages mainstream business and government through discussion of innovation, competitive advantage, business theory, strategy development, and industry policy.

It does this without losing sight of the environmental purpose, and illustrating that the drive for an ecologically sustainable world does not have to be in conflict with economics and business practices. The purpose is to inspire and demonstrate how business, government and civil society, as well as other peak bodies can take integrated approaches to make genuine progress; to show how through such integrated approaches much of Agenda 21 could be put into practice; and to move hearts and minds across all sectors to elicit progress.

The book is powerful and enjoyable reading for anyone, but particularly for those leaders in government,  business, science and engineering, and academia now exploring the cutting edge in the new ‘sustainability economy’.

James Porteous, Editor of the CSIRO ECOS Magazine, Australia's most authoritative magazine on sustainability in the environment, industry and community. (View Article)


Design Council, UK - Beatrice K Otto

This book is described as a natural follow-on to Natural Capitalism, but it's perhaps aimed at a different audience, and does not supersede Natural Capitalism as the first port of call for anyone interested in sustainability. It covers a wider range of topics, and has a wealth of information, but is probably best suited to those who work in sustainability, in whatever capacity, due to the amount of detail and breadth, the sheer heftiness and the altogether dryer style (not helped by a cramped font).

It does bring in new examples, including putting some Australian initiatives on the map which don't show up as much as they should in European and American literature. Very worthwhile, but not a joy to read in the way that Natural Capitalism is. For many readers, it is a book to dip into and select a few chapters that relate specifically to their interests, rather than one to work through from cover to cover.

By Beatrice Otto, consultant on sustainable design and business. (See Website)

Environmental Engineering Society - Terence Jeyaretnam

According to Hunter Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism, who recently toured Australia as part of a seminar and conference series organised by The Natural Edge Project (TNEP), Australia indeed has the potential to become a sustainability superpower. Coming from a leading advocate and writer in the sustainability arena, I must admit it sounded convincing, initially, and after some more thought, I was starting to believe in the claim. However, without going in to arguments and counter-arguments as to whether Australia is a sustainability super power, I will simply say that no nation can arguably lay claim to such a title, yet. I do admit that we, along with other nations have generated some demonstrable level of momentum towards the sustainability journey, but there is much yet to do. That said, let’s digress to some pertinent reading materials in the field, namely two separate publications by Hunter and TNEP.

Natural Capitalism, published four years ago, has been described by Bill Clinton as “a huge deal”. It has sold over 100,000 copies in 12 languages. The principles of Natural Capitalism provide the basis for a complete rethinking of business. They show how, contrary to conventional wisdom, far greater profits are achieved through protecting and enhancing nature, culture, and community than by harming them. The goal is no net loss of natural or social capital. No current balance sheet accurately captures the real economic value of natural or social capital. But no human system that systematically degrades either one can long endure. To achieve genuine prosperity and an economy worth sustaining, it is essential to ensure that neither form of capital is diminished. A highly recommended piece of reading if you were interested in the universal concept of sustainability. Paul Hawkin, Amory Lovins (CEO of Rocky Mountain Institute) and Hunter Lovins (President of Natural Capitalism Inc) were the authors of this remarkably insightful work.

Engineers Australia and the Environmental Engineering Society are Foundation Partners of TNEP, and have contributed to TNEP’s major piece of work – The Natural Advantage of Nations, a book recently launched by Hunter Lovins at Enviro 04. Hunter Lovins is also one of the key contributors to the publication, developed by TNEP. The purpose of the book is to present a well grounded and peer reviewed blueprint for a nation to move towards a sustainable economy and to move hearts and minds, to inspire and enable students, practitioners, public servants, managers, and professionals to help them make substantial progress toward sustainability. I invite you to add both these publications to your bookshelf.

Terence Jeyaretnam is a Principal at URS Corporation in Melbourne, Chair of the Society of Sustainability and Environmental Engineering and the Editor of The Environmental Engineer, the Journal of the Society.


Greenleep Network Coordinator - Phillip Sutton

Dear Greenleapers,

Every now and then I like to give a personal plug for a book that I think is going to make a really big difference to our ability to create an environmentally sustainable economy. These books don't come along all that often, eg. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Hawken, Lovins & Lovins) 1999; Sustainable Technology Development (Weaver, Jansen et al.) 2000.

Now I'd like to add another: The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business opportunities, innovation and governance in the 21st Century. (2005) Earthscan. This book places the 'next industrial revolution' of Natural Capitalism and the transformative innovation method of Sustainable Technology Development into a broader societal context so that professionals, policy makers, business strategists, educators can see how their skills can be applied to the creation of a sustainable society.

The book is the culmination of a mammoth collaborative effort with over 30 contributors and co-authors and project sponsors, resulting in an essential resource book. A nice aspect of this book is that, even though it is international in scope, it is a Australian initiative, led by Charlie Hargroves and Mike Smith, drawing on many of our most creative local sustainability practitioners eg. Alan Pears, Janis Birkeland, Peter Newman, just to name a few. And there are important overseas contributions too. I was particularly pleased that Paul Weaver wrote a chapter on the Netherlands Sustainable Development Technology work which I have heavily promoted through the Greenleap network.

The book does more than bring together case studies and essential initiatives for creating an ecologically-sustainable economy. It also creates a development framework that makes sense of the particulars. The framework is one that mainstream business and government can relate to: innovation, competitive advantage, business strategy development, industry policy etc. but it does this without watering down the environmental purpose. For a lot of people, what the book will do is make it possible for them to articulate to the mainstream how, in practical terms, to transform the economy so that sustainability can be achieved.

It will be interesting to see which countries are able to build on the book's insights most rapidly and gain the most benefit. Will it be the already relatively-aware rich countries - or the up-and-coming Asian high-growth economies where there is no choice but to achieve truly environmentally sustainable economic development?

I think The Natural Advantage of Nations will prompt very necessary developments in both mainstream economics and also in the strongly environmentally minded ecological economics community. Mainstream economics has mostly not been able to deal with environmental sustainability as a core economic issue. On the other hand, the overtly environmentally-orientated ecological economics in Australia has tended to focus heavily on natural resource management, pollution control and material resource management. These issues of course are critical. But comparatively little attention has been paid to changes in the heart of the manufacturing and service sectors, the macroeconomy and on the whole issue of economy-wide transformation. I think that the Natural Advantage of Nations presents and supports a sufficiently strong thesis that it will stimulate reconsideration of all these issues. There's also a very good chance the book will stimulate debate and ideas-development internationally too.

The book sets out its core ideas clearly in the first section and then backs them up with a wealth of additional material. Whilst written for the intelligent layperson the book is academically rigorous with over 600 references. I don't think this book is not going to be a one minute wonder. I think it's contents will be driving economic change over the next decade.

Something I've failed to mention so far is that I have been heavily involved in the development of the book, acting as an advisor from the start and contributing quite a bit of material. It has been exciting for me to see the book come together and to be able to contribute to the creation of a very solid input to the new industrial revolution.

One extra thing. There may be a way to help get the book out to a wider audience. If you have any contacts in the media, know anyone who works in newspapers or magazines in Australia or around the world, the team at The Natural Edge Project who have been driving the book, would be grateful if you could pass on the attachment to this email and/or if you could put them in contact with your media contacts. Contact details for the book's editors and the TNEP Secretariat are at the bottom of this message,

Philip Sutton, Manager of the Greenleap info list, Director of Strategy for Green Innovations Inc. and President of the Sustainable Living Foundation.

Green Building Council Australia

The book is a collection of articles about sustainability written by leaders in each of the fields. It's a useful source book for anyone interested in sustainability issues in all fields and is well indexed with an excellent range of references. The book is edited by Charlie Hargroves and Michael Smith. They are part of a team of young Australians known as The Natural Edge Project (TNEP) hosted by Engineers Australia. TNEP is a not-for-profit partnership that focuses on assisting nations to achieve a natural advantage through a whole-of-society approach to sustainability. The book contains a huge range of theoretical models and practical examples of sustainable principles in action. It would be of particular use for anyone requiring objective evidence of the impact of sustainable practices.

Report on the 6th National Business Leaders Forum on Sustainable Development
Innovation and Sustainable Development, April 4-5, Melbourne.
(View Full Report)


Harvard Business School: Working Knowledge - Cynthia D. Churchwell

This volume pulls together thirty of the top thinkers in sustainability for a provocative and stimulating journey that happens to be easy to read. Its title echoes two famous works: Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Michael Porter’s The Competitive Advantage of Nations, and it also gives a nod to an influential publication down under called Natural Advantage: Blueprint for a Sustainable Australia...

...The industrialized world, the essays contend, needs to focus not just on sustainable development but also on “sustainable re-development,” which would shift the focus from solving environmental problems to eliminating them. In the book’s view, businesses have the resources, management, leadership, and skills necessary to solve these problems; they just need to commit. And they should, because shareholder value is enhanced by a firm’s ability to nurture talent and new ideas, as well as its reputation and brand identity...

...impressive examples used throughout the book to drive home the point that innovation and sustainability go hand in hand...

Cynthia D. Churchwell, a business information librarian at Baker Library, Harvard Business School, with a specialty in the international economy. (View Full Report)


LEEDS School of Business, University of Colorado - Janet Graaff

I teach hundreds of business school students every year. For many, my course is their first academic exposure to how business can, in the words of Interface Inc’s Chairman Ray Anderson, “take nothing, waste nothing, do no harm, and do very, very well by doing good”—good for the planet, for people and for profits. I am finding that The Natural Advantage of Nations is the perfect text for getting this message of hope across in a very practical way. That’s not to say it’s short on theory. By no means! The reader is introduced to Porter’s Competitive Advantage of Nations, Robert’s Natural Step, the Lovins’s Natural Capitalism, Stakeholder Theory and much more.

For American students, who tend to be assigned rather parochial texts for the most part, The Natural Advantage of Nations is an eye-opener to the innovative initiatives occurring around the world. It can serve as a wake-up call for them to waste no time engaging in the tri-sector generation of solutions! I particularly like the way this book crosses traditional boundaries and bring insight into how students of business, engineering, and public policy, can and should all work together to build a powerful and positive future for all of us.

Hargroves and Smith make a clear business case for the Triple Bottom Line--optimizing economic, social and ecological value for the enterprise. Through theory and case studies, they show that any size company in any industry can “pick off the low hanging fruit” of easy cost savings to invest in adaptations and innovations for the long term. With contributions from 30 leaders in the sustainability field, this book contains a wealth of practical, as well as theoretical, frameworks.

By Janet Graaff, Instructor, University of Colorado Leeds School of Business


Manufacturing Society of Australia - R H Brown

This is a scholarly book providing policies, strategies and methodologies aimed at achieving global sustainability in human activities. While noting that many current policies are unsustainable the book takes a positive approach, unlike many previous commentaries on the environment and the future of the planet.

An essential message throughout the book is that competitive advantage and sustainability of companies and/or nations are not mutually exclusive; there are many examples of companies increasing profitability because they change practices so that sustainability is improved. Michael Porter from Harvard Business School is quoted, "The notion of inevitable struggle between ecology and the economy grows out of a static view of environmental regulation, in which technology, products, processes and customer needs are all fixed." He goes on to say that in the real changing world, "managers must start to recognise environmental improvement as an economic and competitive opportunity, not as an annoying cost or inevitable threat."

The book has been put together from contributions by many authors who have been brought together by a group called The Natural Edge Project (TNEP); this group has a great many members and cooperating partner and supporting organisations. The majority of members in TNEP are Australian with a small sprinkling of international supporters. The group includes a very broad range of specialisations so that they can comment authoritatively on economics, business practices, energy technologies, production technologies, city planning, transport, building design, education, ecological and social imperatives and government policies.

The book commences with Forewords by five eminent international environmentalists and business people. This sets the scene for the overall thrust of the topic, which includes consideration of the need for a new approach to designing the future, incorporating sustainability as an element that brings prosperity and a better global society. There are specific sections covering natural advantage as a business imperative; policies to achieve a natural advantage of nations; sustainable cities for the 21st century; and a national collaborative approach for societies to work together.

It is a book of over 500 pages and at times somewhat repetitive as different authors elaborate similar points. The two editors have clearly worked hard to achieve a consistent style throughout and to avoid overlap of themes, but they have not always achieved this.

I would recommend the book as an excellent text for studies in economics and sustainability. It is also an important source of ideas for business and industry leaders, engineers, architects, government planners and society generally.

R H Brown, April 2005 (Visit Site)



Waste Management and Environment (WME) - Richard Collins

Why we need new development paradigms

If you only read one book on sustainable development this year, make it The Natural Advantage of Nations, writes Richard Collins

“Smart companies believe that sustainable development makes them more competitive and more resilient to shocks. It can also make them more at ease with employees, regulators, governments and society”, says Bjorn Stigson, head of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

This argument is at the heart of a new Australian book that draws together seminal texts such as Natural Capitalism and Competitive Advantage of Nations to build an overview of the 21st century business case for sustainable development. A raft of books has attempted this task, with varying degrees of success. The Natural Advantage of Nations has pulled it off, thanks in no small part to an impressive range of contributors, a who’s who of sustainable development from Amory and Hunter Lovins to Alan AtKisson on the international stage, and Phillip Sutton to Peter Newman on the local one. All up, the book incorporates the works of more than 30 sustainability leaders and plenty of case studies to illustrate key points along the way.

Extensively researched and referenced, it was pulled together by a multi-disciplinary initiative call The Natural Edge Project, a volunteer group of young professionals and researchers working with mentors to “examine the key issues of sustainable development and identify ways forward from a business, innovation and governance perspective”.

They argue there are opportunities in the sustainability drive for countries and companies willing to embrace it. Governments, they assert, should not be afraid to set a high regulatory bar as it can push business to become more competitive. The Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances was apparently driven by former President Ronald Reagan at the urging of American businesses. With tough domestic laws already in place, they had developed new products and systems. When the protocol went global, Dupont was well positioned to achieve “a significant market share for its alternative ozone-friendly chemicals”. Similarly, Germany leads global sales of stationary air pollution control systems due to tough domestic regulation.

This is the very argument that has swirled around the debate over the Kyoto Protocol in this country: would energy-intensive industries such as aluminium relocate to cheaper regimes, so called “pollution-havens”, or would we see a growth spurt in energy efficient and low-carbon innovation?

Innovation Cycle: Environmental protection costs business. So says the traditional framework, but 30 years of cost-benefit analysis worldwide suggests that whole system design and smart environmental management can help make money. For example, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute in the US calculates that a one per cent reduction in the friction of pipes leads to savings of 10 units of fuel.
Another key business response is embracing innovation in both products and business strategies. With the cycle of innovation far quicker today than ever before, companies must continue to push the innovation boundaries to maintain a competitive edge and maintain product differentiation. Take 3M, a US $15 billion company that spends US$1 billion a year on R&D and sees 30 per cent of its sales coming from products developed within the past four years.

The book delves deeply into such thinking, providing a blueprint for business, civil society and governments in the age of sustainable development. Why is it needed? The world economy could grow fourfold in the next 50 years, according World Bank projections, meaning new development paradigms are needed to cope with spiraling eco-system pressures and resource demands.

Richard Collins - Alex Steffen

“Anyone interested in the practical details of building a bright green future needs to read this book. It's an absolutely critical overview of our progress towards sustainability thus far, 500+ information-packed pages on what's working best.

Intended by folks at The Natural Edge Project to be a sequel to Natural Capitalism [most of which you can read online, by the way], Natural Advantage does the best job I've yet seen of sweeping the vista of sustainability-related issues, with pragmatic examinations of best-practices in business and government; issue-wrangling essays on profitable green house solutions, greening the built environment and sustainable transportation; probing inquiries into the nature of major planetary problems -- the list goes on…

It has a wonderful restorative effect to hold 500 pages of working solutions in one's hand. It's also incredible to have so many important ideas under one cover and within easy reach. This is a book I'll be coming back to again and again.”

Alex Steffen World Changing: Another World is Here (Full Review and TNEP response)


Reader Reviews

This book is for everyone who is despondent about humanity's chances of living past the next hundred years. Crucially, this book is both for those who view saving the planet and ourselves as a moral imperative and for those who ask how, and when, and even can we afford it. Lovins' "Natural Capitalism" sketched out how businesses could enhance their profitability by changing their paradigm towards something that thinks beyond the next quarter.

This book differs from Natural Capitalism, another brilliant read, in that it moves past the concepts to look at the nuts and bolts of a movement that encourages business to mesh the pursuit of profitability with environmental security through innovation. This book throws light on the structure behind the sketch of Natural Capitalism.

Previous books such as Suzuki's `Good News for a Change', Benyus' `Biomimetics' and even Lovins' Natural Capitalism describe success stories without ever really detailing what you need to do to make one of these success stories yourself. You won't see much in the way of "this requires...", "they should..." or "they shouldn't.." in other texts; you will in this one. In short, this book is also a "how-to" manual written by people who have experience of `making a difference'.

The section on how to use industry cluster development to reorient firms, communities and government towards long term profitability, or in many cases simple survival, is a case in point. The guidelines on processes and institutional frameworks mesh seamlessly with revolutionary work done by organizations such as ZERI (Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives) to provide a sustainable, fruitful, profitable and socially just future for all of us.

My recommendation is that if you're one of those people who say "I'm concerned but what can I do?" then start by buying this book for your political representative, your boss and any concerned friends you might have.

Lee Sun Ju, Ian James Gordon

26 March 2007


The authors of The Natural Advantage of Nations present an incredibly compelling call to redesign our personal and collective approaches to conducting business, governance and the sacred cow, consumption.

Massive transforming power is delivered via the authors’ head-on analysis of challenges, theory and practised solutions. This power is largely made evident in three ways. A new dynamic emerges as the solutions unfold and further, it becomes apparent that the dynamic is common to all of the solutions. The dynamic embodies whole-life and interdisciplinary design, plus genuine collaboration across all stakeholder groups. Secondly, the solutions are innumerable, synergistic and already working. Thirdly, despite the book’s awesome breadth and depth of critical evaluation, it remains very readable throughout.

This work has flooded me with hope and energy to act further. Go further. It is thrillingly vital and a phenomenal light in the darkness. The paths of evolution detailed here have, I believe, the power to inspire and inform positive societal evolution of a magnitude not yet witnessed. Buy this book!

Bryce New
23 August 2006

Non-renewable raw materials have been the engine and catalyst of the 20th century industrial revolution. A novel way of thinking is indispensable for the opening of this new era which is fully elaborate and comprehensive in "The natural advantage of nations" namely in the midst of surging oil prices.

This chef d'oeuvre must be highly recommended to policy-makers, architects,engineers,university faculty and students.

Nicolas Anuku

16 August 2006

Around the world businesses, governments and societies are about to get serious about sustainability. This is not just an optional choice, nor necessarily a mandatory regulated change. Rather its good business and required for a worldwide viable civil future.

For any group, or individual, wanting to create this future The Natural Advantage of Nations is a must. This book compiles the leading edge sustainable business and society practitioners all in one place and leaves you in no doubt that the future described above is not just possible but indeed being realised by hundreds around the world today. This is not to argue that these changes are easy, especially on a worldwide scale and at the speed we need to implement them, but the book is an essential guide to make it possible.

Simon Divecha

8 August 2006


Emerging from Australia, this (The Natural Advantage of Nations) is a tightly textured textbook packed with detail and coming from a multidisciplined source of experienced voices, it is a treat to read, knowing that this is youth at its most powerful - focused, aware and fully integrated in their points of view. It is supported by the CSIRO, which in my small opinion is, with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), one of two Australian organizational Jewels - both now part of the public commons.

....I’m jumping out of my chair to tell you more detail from this book because there is so much excellent material in it for students of any subject.

A reader, Web-of-UNME


I recommend an Australian inspired book "The Natural Advantage of Nations" to anyone who is seriously interested in a sustainable form of capitalism to give all people the chance to enjoy the quality of life of the West.

David Sealey, Reader
7 March 2007