Contemporaneously, Amory and Hunter Lovins were coming to the same conclusion: that a shared framework was needed that could harness the talent of business to solve the world's deepest environmental and social problems. Both were writing Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use for publication in Germany in 1995. The senior author of Factor Four, Ernst von Weizsäcker, among Europe's top innovators in environmental policy, had teamed up with the Lovinses to pool the experience of their respective nonprofit research centers-Wuppertal Institute in Germany and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in Colorado. The three authors had assembled fifty case studies of at least quadrupled resource productivity to detail how, across whole economies, people could live twice as well but use half as much material and energy. Factor Four showed that such striking gains in resource efficiency could be profitable, and that obstacles to their implementation could be hurdled by combining innovations in business practice and in public policy.
Both Factor Four and The Ecology of Commerce urged the private sector to move to the vanguard of environmental solutions. Factor Four described a creative policy framework that could foster fair and open competition in achieving that success. The Ecology of Commerce suggested techniques that when combined with business's unique strengths could enable it to meet this challenge successfully.
Hunter Lovins sent a draft of Factor Four to Paul Hawken in early 1995. He saw that it was the exposition that natural capitalism needed if it were to make its theoretical claims credible and demonstrable. The ideas not only meshed, they were absolutely complementary. We agreed to work together toward one book, under the title of Natural Capitalism, that would contain both theory and practice. After the work began, we discovered it wasn't that simple. Factor Four was anecdotal, Europe-oriented (by 1997 it had also been published in England after being a German bestseller for nearly two years), and written more for policy and environmental activists than for business practitioners. It needed not adaptation but complete rewriting. Further, the examples offered concentrated mainly on efficiency and did not take fully into account the need for the restoration of natural capital nor for several other important elements of natural capitalism that go far beyond mere resource efficiency. Fortunately, Rocky Mountain Institute's researchers in buildings, industry, water, agriculture, forestry, and vehicles had been compiling information on ways to turn the expanding returns of advanced resource productivity into a common business practice. Cultural shifts within the business community had started to accelerate the pace of change, providing practical examples even more compelling than those available in 1995. A wider and more ambitious agenda was becoming possible and profitable.
As we sought to make the American public aware of an emerging resource productivity revolution, we realized that there was a larger message. Eco-efficiency, an increasingly popular concept used by business to describe incremental improvements in materials use and environmental impact, is only one small part of a richer and more complex web of ideas and solutions. Without a fundamental rethinking of the structure and the reward system of commerce, narrowly focused eco-efficiency could be a disaster for the environment by overwhelming resource savings with even larger growth in the production of the wrong products, produced by the wrong processes, from the wrong materials, in the wrong place, at the wrong scale, and delivered using the wrong business models. With so many wrongs outweighing one right, more efficient production by itself could become not the servant but the enemy of a durable economy. Reconciling ecological with economic goals requires not just eco-efficiency alone, but also three additional principles, all interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Only that combination of all four principles can yield the full benefits and the logical consistency of natural capitalism.
Hundreds of exciting examples emerged from rapidly evolving business experience in many sectors: transportation and land use, buildings and real estate, industry and materials, forests, food, water. But as we sifted and distilled those new business cases, we realized that the conventional wisdom is mistaken in seeing priorities in economic, environmental, and social policy as competing. The best solutions are based not on tradeoffs or "balance" between these objectives but on design integration achieving all of them together-at every level, from technical devices to production systems to companies to economic sectors to entire cities and societies. This book tells that story of design integration, unfolding through the interaction of successive topical chapters and interleaved with explanations of the design concepts they reveal.
The story is neither simple nor complete. Each of these ideas deserves far greater explanation than space allows. Its conclusion is tantalizing if not yet wholly clear. Although it is a book abounding in solutions, it is not about "fixes." Nor is it a how-to manual. It is a portrayal of opportunities that if captured will lead to no less than a transformation of commerce and of all societal institutions. Natural capitalism maps the general direction of a journey that requires overturning long-held assumptions, even questioning what we value and how we are to live. Yet the early stages in the decades-long odyssey are turning out to release extraordinary benefits. Among these are what business innovator Peter Senge calls "hidden reserves within the enterprise"-"lost energy," trapped in stale employee and customer relationships, that can be channeled into success for both today's shareholders and future generations. All three of us have witnessed this excitement and enhanced total factor productivity in many of the businesses we have counseled. It is real; it is replicable; its principles and practice are documented in this book and its roughly eight hundred references.
The order of the chapters bears some explanation. Chapter 1, The Next Industrial Revolution, sets out the principles and underlying theory of natural capitalism. Here, the four main strategies are spelled out and elaborated. Chapter 2, about Hypercars and neighborhoods, demonstrates immediately how the four principles of natural capitalism are transforming one of the world's largest and most destructive industries-automobiles-and how sensible land use and fair competition between modes of access can reduce car dependence to an optimal level. Chapter 3, Waste Not, further establishes the foundation for radical changes in resource use. It tells how we are needlessly losing materials, energy, money, and even people, a critical point because the potential and opportunities inherent in natural capitalism cannot be fathomed or accepted without understanding the extraordinary wastefulness of the current industrial system. Chapter 4, Making the World, outlines the ingenious and fundamental principles of resource productivity in industry and materials. Chapter 5, Building Blocks, like the chapter on cars, shows how the natural capitalism principles are becoming manifest in revolutionizing the building and real estate industries. Chapter 6, Tunneling Through the Cost Barrier, returns again to a set of counterintuitive design principles to show that very large gains in resource productivity are often much more profitable than smaller ones. Chapter 7, Muda, Service, and Flow, describes how the relentless elimination of waste combined with business redefinition can vault companies into new commercial terrain and help to stabilize the entire economy. Chapter 8, Capital Gains, defines and addresses the loss of natural capital and what can be done to reverse the loss of "our only home." The next three chapters discuss natural processes, showing how biologically inspired design can radically reduce human impact on farmland, forests, and water, while retaining the ability to increase the quality of life for all. Chapter 12, Climate, combines principles and examples to show how to literally end the threat of global warming at a profit to all nations, rich and poor. Chapter 13, Making Markets Work, explores the virtues and misconceptions surrounding market-based principles and how to harness them for both short- and long-term gains for all sectors. Chapter 14, about a near-legendary city in Brazil called Curitiba, describes how a small group of designers, with scant money but brilliant conceptual integration and entrepreneurship, changed the concept of what a city can be, vastly improving the quality of life of both citizens and the environment. Finally, chapter 15 explores how the move toward a durable and sustaining economy is becoming the most powerful movement in the world today, and what that augurs for the decades to come.
If the book seems more like a tapestry than a straight-line exposition of theory and fact, it is because the subject itself is far from linear. In all respects, Natural Capitalism is about integration and restoration, a systems view of our society and its relationship to the environment, that defies categorization into subdisciplines. Readers may wonder that the book largely ignores the market darlings of biotechnology, nanotechnology, e-commerce, and the burgeoning Internet. There are armfuls of books describing how technology is revolutionizing our lives. While that is undeniably so, at least for a minority of the world's population, our purpose is almost the opposite. We are trying to describe how our lives and life itself will revolutionize all technologies. Regardless of whether a business is an Internet retailer in California or a tool-and-die shop in Cleveland or a software company in India, the reconciliation of the relationship between human, in this case business, and living systems will dominate the twenty-first century.
Critics on the left may argue that businesspeople pursue only short-term self-interest unless guided by legislation in the public interest. However, we believe that the world stands on the threshold of basic changes in the conditions of business. Companies that ignore the message of natural capitalism do so at their peril. Thus our strategy here is not to approach business as a supplicant, asking corporations to change and make a better world by respecting the limits of the environment. Actually, there are growing numbers of business owners and managers who are changing their enterprises to become more environmentally responsible because of deeply rooted beliefs and values. This is a wonderful change to witness. But what we are saying is more pressing than a request. The book teems with examples and references, included to show that the move toward radical resource productivity and natural capitalism is beginning to feel inevitable rather than merely possible. It is similar to a train that is at the station about to go. The train doesn't know if your company, country, or city is safely on board, nor whether your ticket is punched or not. There is now sufficient evidence of change to suggest that if your corporation or institution is not paying attention to this revolution, it will lose competitive advantage. In this changed business climate, those who incur that loss will be seen as remiss if not irresponsible. The opportunity for constructive, meaningful change is growing and exciting. If at times we seem to lean more to enthusiasm than reportage, it is because we can see the tremendous array of possibilities for healing the most intransigent problems of our time. This is what we have tried to share with you.
In offering this book and site, we hope to serve a rapidly growing network of people in the world who see the world as it can be, not merely as it is. Wendell Berry writes in his Recollected Essays: