Frequently Asked Questions

1. What do we mean by sustainability?

In 1987, the Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as 'meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.'** This definition is very compelling, but it does not have the clarity nor the precision required for effective organizational planning.   This is why The Natural Step built on this definition through a consensus-based process to develop four conditions that define the characteristics of a sustainable society.  These conditions are rooted in science and are used for strategic planning toward sustainability.  

** World Commission on Environment and Development. 1987.

2. What is The Natural Step Framework?
The Natural Step Framework is a comprehensive model for planning in complex systems. It is openly published and free for all to use. The Framework provides a box to arrange and organize various tools for sustainable development so that approaches and methodologies are aligned to work synergistically with each other. It is constantly used, tested, refined and developed. The Natural Step Framework has helped hundreds of different organizations around the world integrate sustainable development into their strategic planning and create long lasting transformative change.  

3. What is unique about The Natural Step Framework?
The Natural Step Framework was created to help organizations and communities backcast from principles of sustainability.  Backcasting is a fancy word for the concept of starting first by defining a future point of success, and then taking the most effective steps to arrive at that point (in comparison with forecasting where we study past information to find trends and project them into the future).  Within this backcasting approach, principles of sustainability are used to define a future point of success that is sustainable and consistent with basic scientific laws (e.g. laws of thermodynamics).  The Natural Step approach is unique in that it does not constrain individuals to work only with existing technologies, political systems and laws. We assume that those things will change and we are planning far enough in the future that we can use that to our advantage.  Backcasting from sustainability principles is an incredibly powerful planning approach which unleashes creativity and leads to out of the box thinking.