Natural Capitalism — Book Review

Natural Capitalism Book CoverReaders are offered a view of the sustainability movement during the late 1990’s in Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins.

It was first published in 1999. A 10th Anniversary Edition was published in 2010 with a new introduction by Amory B. Lovins and Paul Hawken that updates the story to include successes of the last decade.

Book Review

The book defines natural capital as water, minerals, oil, trees, fish, soil, etc. It discusses the impact of our current system of industrial capitalism on people and the environment and provides a compelling alternative.

Natural capitalism is introduced as a viable and necessary economic model for the future. According to the authors, “Natural capitalism recognizes the critical interdependency between the production and use of human-made capital and the maintenance and supply of natural capital.”

  • Radical Resource Productivity – increase resource productivity, eliminate waste, rethink business, integrate design (look at the whole system, not just its parts).
  • Biomimicry – nature does not waste anything, one systems waste is another systems’ input (we need to learn from this concept).
  • Service and Flow Economy – a shift from buying stuff to leasing or renting the service the stuff it provides. E.g. buying the service of cooling instead of an air-conditioner.
  • Investing in Natural Capitalism – humankind inherited a 3.8-billion-year store of natural capital which is being rapidly degraded and depleted, we need to use it wisely, sustain and restore it.

Instead of telling businesses they must change because it’s the right thing to do, the authors provide evidence that business and industry will have to change to stay in business. Implementing natural capitalism can be a competitive advantage for companies, it can save and make money, all while sustaining and restoring natural capital for the future.

The Bottom Line

Reading about sustainability from a distance of over a decade gave me a new perspective on where we have come from, some successes, and how much further we still need to go.

The authors are well-respected experts in their fields and delivered information in an interesting and readable way. Showing companies how to change from a businessperson’s perspective makes sense to me. Companies need to stay in business while they change.

I recommend Natural Capitalism to people interested in a sustainable economic and business future.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

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