Innovation in Sustainable Business Advocacy: Natural Step Network USA
By Sean Meyers, Contributing writer
Regina Hauser, center, leads the Natural Step Network USA in Portland.
Ten years ago the proprietors of Hotlips Pizza in Portland had a strong vision of how they wanted their business to relate to the environment.
“We wanted to go beyond carbon-neutral or net-zero. We wanted, for lack of a better word, fecundity. We wanted to get out in the field and talk with the farmers. We wanted to be growth-positive. We wanted a lot of things, but we didn’t have the framework we needed to get it done,” said co-owner David Yudkin.
Enter The Natural Step Network USA, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps businesses create and execute a sustainability blueprint and serves as a network for social and environmental leaders.
The Natural Step Network was launched in Sweden in 1989 by Karl-Henrik Robert, who was deeply troubled by rapid human consumption of natural resources. A scientist, he dwelled on the laws of thermodynamics — energy is never destroyed, it just changes form.
Roberts developed a scientifically based — and therefore measurable — proposal for change. Robert sent the plan to 50 scientists to solicit improvements. The result is The Natural Step Network, which has been adopted by 70 communities in Sweden and about a dozen in North America.
Roberts recognized that sustainability can’t be achieved by science alone, but through the work of “islands of people with integrity,” he said.
The Portland law firm of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is determined not to get voted off that island.
They turned to The Natural Step Network several years ago to help cut back its mileage program — miles of paper and miles spent traveling to meetings.
“They’re a big-picture people. They gave us a framework to move forward,” said Carmen Calzacorta, a Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorney and shareholder.
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