Our approach to sustainability


Positive —Productive — Professional

Our approach is collaborative, non-confrontational, non-partisan, and solution-oriented. We use credible sustainability frameworks and systems thinking to guide our work. We educate, inspire and innovate.

There’s an urgent need for a switch to a sustainable society so we use a cooperative, solution-oriented approach to address our societal challenges.  It takes all of us to succeed so we help others discover new practices and technologies, sometimes saving them money and effort. In a world of increasing stresses, sustainability is the key to prosperity, comfort, and vitality.  We are thankful to see how many businesses, non-profits and municipalities have gotten engaged in the sustainability movement. We offer advice and expertise, a holistic perspective on what needs to happen.

People — Planet —Prosperity

What do we mean by sustainability? We use the 3 P’s—People, Planet, Prosperity; they’re even in our logo. Ultimately sustainability is about creating a high quality of life within the limits of nature.

But the 3 P’s aren’t separate realms. Sustainability involves understanding the entire system that underpins the well-being of our society. Instead of treating the environment, social issues or economic issues as separate problems to address, we see the interconnections. You have to see the whole system. For example: air pollution from cars and dirty power plants affect our health which affects the economy. Everything is connected. We seek elegant solutions that make all three better—a healthy ecosystem, a high quality of life and a vibrant economy.

People and organizations focus on different priorities. Some will be focused on protecting the environment, others on expanding economic value or addressing social injustice. But we should all be making decisions with an eye to how those decisions will affect the whole system, choosing options that make all the 3 P’s better.

are we there yet?

All that 3 P stuff sounds fine conceptually, but what’s the end game? How do we know if we’re driving toward full sustainability instead just being busy, moving proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic? As Bill McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle likes to say, the goal is not to be less bad; we want to be sustainable.

We use The Natural Step’s principles developed by scientists and derived from natural laws. They provide 4 principles that define a fully sustainable society. Basically, our society made four design mistakes and virtually all of the world’s problems nest into one or more of these principles. We use these principles as the structure of our business certification and also in many sustainability planning processes.

What are the 4 principles of sustainability and how can your organization use them to improve competitiveness. (based on The Natural Step principles)

What other sustainability frameworks do we use?

The value in using a credible, respected framework is you are more likely to be including all necessary elements in your efforts and you’re not spending time on things that don’t in the end matter that much. Shared frameworks also make it easier to learn from other communities.

Many corporations and communities are linking to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, goals that the majority of nations agreed to work toward. Where appropriate we reference these goals to show how our work connects with international efforts. For example, we chose the most relevant SDGs for our Dashboard of Community Indicators that is still under development.

We also like Kate Raworth’s model that combines the planetary boundaries with some of the SDG’s. She calls it an economic doughnut but we think a life-preserver is a better metaphor.

So, we refer to a number of different cutting edge concepts (like the Circular Economy, Biomimicry, Living Building Challenge) as appropriate, but we have a bias toward using those frameworks that provide a measurable, scientifically-set target.

what about a restoration economy or resilience?

Yes, absolutely, we support those concepts too. We need to restore depleted natural systems like fisheries, rain forest and blighted communities. We are already seeing impacts of climate change so our communities need to be resilient.

We recognize that some people think ‘sustainability’ isn’t quite the right term anymore. But to us, it encompasses these other concepts. It’s easier to use a term that is now a household term than try to explain a new, nuanced alternative.