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Posted on on November 18th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Dear Pincas,

We’ve come a long way since Hunter founded Natural Capitalism Solutions ten years ago—and we couldn’t have done it without you. To celebrate our decade of implementing genuine sustainability, we’re looking back on 10 of the achievements you helped make possible.

In three emails we cover what we’ve done together to advance sustainability across a global network of businesses, governments, and communities. They’re not ranked and it’s far from an exhaustive list, so if you have a favorite story or memory to share, please do: send us an email, post your story on our Facebook page, or tweet using #ncs10year.

Toby Russell (C.E.O.)


The organization is based on the principles presented in the book Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, co-authored by the organization’s leader Hunter Lovins.

Natural Capitalism Solutions builds on the original Natural Capitalism Principles, a leading whole-system sustainability framework. Since the books’ publication in 1999, Hunter and her colleagues have gained a wealth of experience in helping companies and communities use these principles to capture the economic advantages of sustainability. The principles have evolved to identify opportunities to reduce capital investment and operating costs and generate market leadership advantages.

The principles used by Natural Capitalism Solutions are:

1. Buy time by using resources dramatically more productively.

This slows resource depletion, lessens pollution, and increases employment in meaningful jobs. It lowers costs for business and society, halts the degradation of the biosphere, makes it more profitable to employ people, and preserves vital living systems and social cohesion.

2. Redesign industrial processes and the delivery of products and services to do business as nature does, using such approaches as biomimicry and cradle to cradle.

This approach enables a wide array of materials to be produced with low energy flows, in processes that run on sunlight, emulating nature’s genius.  It shifts to circular economies in which materials are reused, remanufactured and waste is eliminated.

3. Manage all institutions to be restorative of natural and human capital.

Such approaches enhance human well-being and enable the biosphere to produce more wealth from its intact communities and abundant ecosystem services and natural resources.

Next event:
Fri Dec 07, 2012
New York, NY | Bard Residency #4

The first event was at Bard Center For Environmental Policy – National Climate Seminar –
This is a Prof. Eban Goodstein Project. // January 26, 2010 It was held in New York City.

to be followed by:

Fri Dec 14, 2012
Denver, CO | Denver University SLIC course
Thu Feb 28, 2013
Ogden, UT | 4th Annual Intermountain Sustainability Summit
Mon Apr 22, 2013
Elon, NC | Elon University’s Earth Day Celebration
Thu May 02, 2013
Chicago, IL | Chicago Family Business Council


The ten examples of achievements sent out in the three e-mails, are:

1) Paving The Way

NCS was one of only a handful of sustainability consulting groups when it was created. Today there are hundreds of such companies helping with businesses become more sustainable, cut their costs through efficiency, and drive their profitability by behaving more responsibly to people and the planet. All of the major consulting houses now have a sustainability consultancy, many trained by NCS staff, using approaches we developed, and making Hunter’s pioneering work in the business case for sustainability mainstream.

Over the past ten years we’ve watched our leadership in sustainability strategy, carbon accounting, employee engagement, and many other topics become conventional offerings by such firms as Accenture, McKinsey, Deloitte, and others. NCS has always chosen projects on the cutting edge of sustainability, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a responsible company. A few examples of this include:

  • NCS conducted one of the first Life Cycle Assessments ever done with a food company for Clif Bar.
  • We briefed Walmart’s senior management, posing them the question, “What would a truly sustainable Walmart business model be…?”
  • NCS has helped a diverse group of stakeholders redesign accounting from the limited concept of the triple bottom line to The Integrated Bottom Line. This work is now being carried on by such groups as the International Integrated Reporting Committee and the U.S. based Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.
  • In the field of sustainability, 2012 is considered to be the year of Employee Engagement and NCS is proud to have pioneered employee engagement for sustainability since our inception.

Staying ahead of the rest of the field means that we continually assess industry best practices and push our clients to reach greater success. Our current priority is to help companies set goals that reflect an understanding of the science of climate change, and the need to achieve significant emissions reductions goals.

2) The Next Wave of Leaders

Education is at the heart of everything we do. Our higher education achievements may turn out to be our most important contribution. In the last ten years we have created two MBA programs, conducted three executive education certificates, taught in hundreds of schools, and inspired thousands of students across the world—helping to build an army of sustainability advocates.

This next wave of leaders will shape the future of our planet. Recent studies have found that 92-96 percent of recent college graduates want to work in companies that care about the environment—so our work is far from over.

Hunter currently teaches in sustainability MBA programs at both Bainbridge Graduate Institute, and Bard College. NCS continues to run the highly successful executive certificate program with the University of Denver Daniels School of Business.
NCS has just announced a partnership with Bainbridge Graduate Institute, In the Telling, a pioneer video transmedia eLearning company and Pearson, the world’s largest educational solutions company to create the first modules of The Madrone Project—cutting edge learning that integrates video stories with an array of other dynamic learning resources.

Imagine the best class you ever had…. No, imagine the best class that you wish you could have taken. What if the world’s leading sustainability thought leaders could come alive for your students using the best media of the YouTube generation. Video, social networking, and rich multimedia resources will enable the students to dive as deeply as they want into any topic.

The Madrone Project prototypes will be available early in 2013. Watch for it on our website.

3) Internship Program

One of our biggest educational accomplishment is our internship program. Over ten years we’ve educated more than 100 interns ranging from undergrads to experienced individuals looking for a career change. NCS interns gain experience at all levels of our work, from research to final product, and grow the skills they need to get a job in today’s economy. Our interns go on to grad school and gain employment at such organizations as Renewable Choice Energy, Peace Corps, UBS, Mile High Organics, the Shaw Group, Urban Farm Company of Colorado, and the Energy and Environment group at the British Consulate in Chicago.

We have loved each and every one of our interns. Each arrival brings a new energy to the office with his or her individual passions. Without their eagerness to learn about and implement genuine sustainability we wouldn’t be where we are today. Almost all of our amazing staff has been hired from our intern pool.

Meet our amazing current and past interns.

4) CLEAN Local Energy

Meeting the world’s energy challenges will require a massive and sustained scale-up of renewable energy. Public policy has driven rapid renewable energy market growth during the past decade, however, this alone will be insufficient to affect the necessary energy transformation. NCS’ CLEAN Coalition (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now), led by Craig Lewis, has been working to catalyze the adoption of distributed generation renewable energy development throughout the United States. .

The Clean Coalition has pushed the State of California to launch a 750 MW CLEAN Program in early 2013 with a vastly expanded program following within a year or two. In addition, the Long Island Power Authority has already launched a highly successful 50 MW CLEAN Program and is now seeking guidance on a vastly expanded program.

This work, in conjunction with our leadership in building the economic case for transitioning away from dirty energy and towards clean energy, contributes to NCS’ positive impact in the energy arena.

5) Small Business Solutions

For the past eight years we have been working with small businesses to help them profit by implementing more sustainable practices. Traditional energy efficiency advocacy has focused on large organizations and audits, rebates, and incentives. It’s ignored Main Street. Far too little attention has been given to no-cost changes people can make to how they do business. Over the years, NCS has helped little businesses in our towns and cities by creating tools like Solutions at the Speed of Business – an online sustainability implementation tool for small businesses that focus on what small businesses can do to implement genuine sustainability.

To spread sustainability and reach more small businesses, we developed Solutions 4 Sustainability (S4S) – a train-the-trainer program for small businesses networks. S4S helps cities, Small Business Development Centers, Chambers of Commerce and local economic developers gain the skills and tools to help their own small businesses implement profitable sustainability. We’ve offered these programs from Wyoming to the California Coast, in Iowa and in Colorado.

6) In Our Community

As a global leader in sustainability, NCS works with businesses, governments, and communities in over 30 countries to develop sustainable strategies and solutions. We use one-on-one consulting projects, cross-sector collaboration efforts, and cutting-edge research.

We also believe that it is important to drive change in our home communities and have a positive impact on our local community. From the mountains to the ranch, we love Colorado and work to strengthen its citizens and communities.

For 10 years we have implemented more sustainable programs with numerous Colorado business, cities, and local governments. We’ve worked with Boulder County Parks and Open Spaces assessing sustainable agriculture locally, helped New Belgium Brewing implement the integrated bottom line, led the Fort Carson Mountain Post initiative to set and implement the most ambitious sustainability goals in the armed forces, and assisted our own City of Longmont in conducting a feasibility study for a Colorado Energy Incubator.

Besides our local consulting, Hunter and staff continually present at local conferences including Boulder Clean Energy, Colorado Sustainability Summit, LOHAS, AREday, The City Club, Boulder City Council, Greenprint Denver and CleanMed and many more. We have assisted local events like those hosted by CORE and the Alliance for a Sustainable Colorado. Additionally we remain active with local community groups, helping them understand the business case for implementing more sustainable alternatives to solve pressing local challenges in energy, agriculture, and water.

7) Business Case for Sustainability

Building on its seminal work, Natural Capitalism, Natural Capitalism Solutions has worked the last decade building the business case for sustainability. Giving thousands of speeches presenting the business case at companies like Google and Walmart, publishing cutting edge research, and bringing the message to boardrooms and Main Street, NCS built the road now traveled by academic commentators like Harvard Business Review, and management consulting houses from McKinsey to Accenture.

Our recent report Sustainability Pays and Hunter’s new book The Way Out, cap our decade’s leadership in this field, and provide undisputable proof that business leaders can profit by integrating sustainability into all aspects of their operations. When the likes of Goldman Sachs and AT Kearny are advocating sustainability in the same breath as profitability, we know there’s a business case.

Nowhere has this shift been more pronounced than with NCS’ own clients. Diversey, a Johnson family company and an NCS client, has publically stated, “For every dollar (they) invest in sustainability, (they) get two dollars back.”

NCS continues to work with an array of clients to show them how to improve short- and long-term profitability through the adoption of sustainable practices in the following areas:

  • Natural Resource, Energy, and Operational Efficiency
  • Human Resources Management
  • Financial Operations
  • Marketing and Communication
  • Collaboration with NGOs and Government

8) International Development

NCS also shares its sustainability message across the world, working with a global network of governments, and communities to develop sustainable strategies and solutions. From advising the Energy Minister of Afghanistan to the Prime Minister of Bhutan, taking a major role at the recent United Nations Rio+20, which adopted NCS’ Bill Becker’s “Future We Want” program as the organizing theme for the conference, NCS has a key role in meeting the global challenges.

Our work internationally has helped spur progress on areas of sustainability and societal dilemmas such as:

  • In 2002 an NCS delegation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, led to work to help the International Finance Corporation implement more sustainable practices in its operations. This led eventually to the creation of the Equator Principles, now governing a significant percentage of project finance loans from major banks around the world.
  • In 2008, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) engaged NCS to research and develop leading sustainable production practices for Asia, addressing how resource-efficient and low carbon manufacturing can lift people out of poverty, in such countries as China, Pakistan and India. The final report and subsequent presentations to the United Nations and Asian countries provided a blueprint to transform and support sustainable, green growth industries so they can improve financial and environmental performance while building social cohesiveness.
  • In Jamaica, NCS worked with a US AID contractor to provide economic development expertise to work with the business sector to provide clusters of industry around eco-tourism, bamboo, sauces & spices, and coffee to replace drug production. Apart from advising local staff, NCS helped write the business plan to enable UNDP funding for these ventures.
  • In Afghanistan, where Hunter was named an advisor to the Minister of Energy, NCS worked with a US AID contractor to strengthen economic development efforts. NCS analyzed the value-add of sustainable ways to produce fruits and nuts, carpets and a variety of other products.
  • More recently Hunter accepted a personal invitation from the Prime Minister of Bhutan to serve on the steering committee of a team of international thought leaders convened at the UN to reframe the global economic paradigm. This group is laying the intellectual foundations for a shift from outdated indicators of progress based around Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to one that values what is important to people, or Gross National Happiness (GNH). Read Hunter’s account of the most recent UN gathering here.

9) Publications & Speeches

NCS shares our work and inspire others to engage with sustainability through a variety of publications. Over 350 articles, book forwards, op-ed’s add to the amazing number of miles Hunter and crew have put in giving over 1,000 speeches. Some of these were small events or local publications, while others included United Nations summits and the Financial Times 100. NCS has been published from Harvard Business Review, UK Guardian, Forbes, World Affairs, and Fast Company to leading news magazines around the world. Below is a tiny sampling of some of our most interesting articles, publications, and speeches by Hunter, Bill and other NCS staff:

Books and Articles

  • The Way Out: Kick-starting Capitalism to Save Our Economic Ass (buy)
  • Climate Protection Manual for Cities (read)
  • Sustainable Industries: The High Rate of Return on Giving (read)
  • Fast Company: Reframing The Global Economy To Include Happiness (read)
  • Sustainable Brands: Engaging Employees in Sustainability 2.0 (read)
  • The Huffington Post: Rio+20 – The Young Can’t Wait (read)
  • UNIDO: The Future of Industry in Asia (read)
  • The 2018-2012 Presidential Climate Action Plan(s) (read)
  • COP15, in Copenhagen: The Business Case for Climate Protection (read)
  • Solutions Journal: Creating a Game Plan for the Transition to a Sustainable U.S. Economy (read)
  • World Affairs Journal: Development as if The World Mattered (read)
  • NCS’ BLOG (read)
  • NCS’ Corkboards – collection of online resources (read)

  • Global Economic Forum
  • UNIDO General Assembly
  • WOMAD Earthstation
  • Financial Times Conference
  • SRI of the Rockies (slides)
  • Sustainable Brands 2012 (video)
  • LOHAS (video)
  • World Energy Forum
  • Balaton Group
  • United Nations (video)
  • Fortune Magazine Brainstorm Green
  • TEDx Mile High, San Joaquin and CSU (click location for video)
  • Chile Clean Tech Open (slides)
  • Honduras Economic Development Summit for WCSBD
  • National League of Cities (slides)
  • Sustainable Boulder: Challenges and Opportunities (slides)
  • Australian Business Leaders Forum
  • Patagonia (video)
  • University of Santa Barbara (video)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales
  • Volvo Sports Design Forum (video)
  • University of North Carolina (video)

Hunter Lovins has co-authored 13 books and hundreds of papers, including the seminal book, Natural Capitalism and it’s sequel The Way Out. The book presents hundreds of case studies—many from Natural Capitalism Solutions’ work with international corporations, small businesses, NGOs, and municipalities—to prove that innovative sustainability can solve the climate crisis at a profit. Bill Becker has published several books and papers including the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP). PCAP has submitted more than 200 policy and program recommendations to the Obama Administration, many of which were adopted during the President’s first year in office.

10) Awards & Accolades

The work of Hunter and NCS has been honored over the years by a number of institutions, communities, groups. While we certainly don’t mind the recognition, it is always the impact that we are after. A few of the honors of the last decade include.

Hunter Lovins

Bill Becker

  • President’s Council on Sustainable Development
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