A brief overview of the Framework
and why it is perfect for guiding product and service innovation towards sustainability and market success
Our approach is collectively called “The Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development” (or simply “the Framework”) – it is a comprehensive model for planning in complex systems. It is openly published and free for all to use. The Framework has helped hundreds of different organisations around the world integrate sustainable development into their strategic planning and create long lasting transformative change. It is constantly being used, tested, refined and developed.
Over the years, it has proved especially useful in guiding product development towards sustainability.
Sustainability: critical for success
The Framework is based on systems thinking; recognizing that what happens in one part of a system affects every other part. Think of a soccer team. We can’t understand why the team lost the game until we look at how each player – the goal keeper, defenders and forwards - all worked together on the field. We won’t learn much if we just study one member of the team. The Framework gives an organisation the tools to look at the whole team, understand the rules of the game, define success, and move towards it together.
Any successful team must have a common language and understanding in order to facilitate cooperation. The Framework provides this shared mental model of sustainability by helping people across organisations, disciplines and cultures to communicate effectively, build consensus and ultimately move toward their vision. We use an upstream approach that anticipates and avoids problems before they occur, rather than reacting to their downstream effects.
This scientifically rigorous Framework gives organisations the tools to perform a gap analysis using the lens of sustainability, and then work toward closing the gap. Furthermore, The Framework complements other sustainability tools and methodologies, such as life cycle analysis or environmental management systems, by providing the context and strategic vision that makes them more effective.
The Framework has been used in strategic decision-making by hundreds of organisations, in multiple sectors, across supply chains and in various scales, offering concrete and simple ways to accelerate change toward sustainability.
Benefits of using this holistic approach in product development:
- The Framework helps handle the complexity of sustainability without being complicated
- It helps create tangible understanding around what it means to achieve sustainable product or service systems and provides methods for planning how to get there.
- It does not only highlight known environmental problems, but helps identify the full gap towards sustainability, including both social and environmental challenges and opportunities across the entire life cycle of the system in focus.
- It helps set the rules for what it means to “win” in terms of sustainability. This frees creativity and enables collaboration across professional boundaries to become a great team that plays to win – i.e. that develops products and services that simultaneously helps bridge the gap towards sustainability while achieving other goals and aspirations.
- It provides methods for coming up with creative ideas and strategic development pathways towards sustainable products AND market success. This increases the innovation potential.
- It provides a process that helps you discover what you don’t know.
- Its’ core methods are very much aligned with the design process and concept of design thinking.
- It helps with the selection of tools and methods to aid the sustainable innovation process.
Read here for some inspiring examples of The Natural Step’s work.
Read here for a brief outline of the ABCD Method which is used as a primary method of the Framework.