Natural Step, The

A systems-approach to business strategy, based on the scientific principles that have to be satisfied if a system is to be sustainable.N61 The method uses the “funnel” as a metaphor for the narrowing range of options available to business and government; and a sequence of four steps (ABCD) for analysis and action:

Awareness of the conditions of sustainability and the place of their business in that wider context;

Baseline mapping of the gap between the criteria of sustainability and the business as a system—including its whole supply chain and social and economic context;

Clear vision of how the business would have to change if it were to fulfil the principles of sustainability—a “backcasting” method is used to trace a path from those principles to their application; and

Down to Action in implementing that vision.

The action will involve collective learning, new ways of working together, systems thinking, stretch goals (aims that may at first seem to be over-ambitious), and a step-by-step approach, starting with the easiest change, moving ahead incrementally, and grasping the opportunities when these incremental advances start to bring stretch goals within reach.

In fact, as lean thinking recognises, incrementalism is only part of the story: as you get close-up to the barriers to further progress, you may realise that overcoming them is impossible, except via the total transformation of kaikaku, a step which will feel anything but natural.N62


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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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