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Introduction to strategic sustainable development


Strategic Sustainable Development

Strategic Sustainable Development revolves around a generic framework for planning in complex systems. It is based on research published in international journals and is generically called the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development. It is also known amongst business and political leaders as The Natural Step Framework after the organisation that was created to promote its use. Along with a network of other partner institutions, researchers at BTH are instrumental in its ongoing development, particularly in the field of sustainable product innovation.

The framework is a widely-applicable approach to sustainable development and has been applied in hundreds of organisations around the world. Businesses such as McDonald’s, IKEA, Scandic Hotels, Interface, Starbucks, Nike, Hydro Polymers, Rohm and Hass, and communities such as the Swedish Eco-Municipalities, and Whistler and Canmore (Canada), have used this framework to help define and adopt their sustainable development goals.

Framework advantages

The framework has the advantages of being:

  • Scientific – Basic concepts from physics, natural, and social sciences provide a foundation.
  • Holistic – Recognizing the highly complex interdependency of the natural world and society, the framework is based on systems thinking to support decision making.
  • Structured – There is a clear distinction between: (1) the functioning and boundaries of the system; (2) the principled, scientific view of sustainability; (3) guidelines for strategic decision-making; (4) actions; and (5) various support methods and tools.
  • Strategic – A clear, principled view of a future sustainable society guides decisions using a ‘future success looking backwards’ (i.e. ‘backcasting’) approach.
  • Creativity-Enabling – By ‘backcasting’ from basic constraints of a future sustainable society, a vast range of possibilities become possible within these broad but concrete constraints.
  • Based on Scientific Consensus – The principled, scientific definition of sustainability has been derived and refined through a scientific consensus process.
  • Tested by Application – Theories and concepts are continually applied and tested by academics and practitioners in concert with business and society.

Understanding sustainability

Within the MSPI programme, this framework is introduced to build a shared and comprehensive understanding of sustainability. Participants will become familiar with the framework and its application, which will allow them to select and use the many tools and concepts of sustainable development in a clear, structured and effective manner.