A ROAD MAP FOR
Business strategies built around the radically more productive use of natural resources can solve many environmental problems at a profit.
BY AMORY B. LOVINS. L, HUNTER LOVINS. AND PAUL HAWKEN
ARTWORK BY CRAIG FRAZIER
N SEPTEMBER i6,
1 9 9 1 , 3. Small gTOUp of s c i c n t i s t s w a s
Isealed inside Biosphere II, a glittering 3.2-acre glass and metal dome in Oracle, Arizona. Two years later, when the radical attempt to replicate the earth's main ecosystems in miniature ended, the engineered environment was dying. The gaunt researchers had survived only because fresh air had been pumped in. Despite $200 million worth of elaborate ...view middle of the document...
at the larger services that those systems provide for This approach is called natural capitalism befree. Resources and ecosystem services both come cause it's what capitalism might become if its from the earth-even from the same biological syslargest category of capital-the "natural capital" of tems-but they're two different things. Forests, for ecosystem services-were properly valued. The instance, not only produce the resource of wood journey to natural capitalism involves four major fiber but also provide such ecosystem services as shifts in business practices, all vitally interlinked: water storage, habitat, and regulation of the atmosphere and climate. Yet companies that earn income • Dramatically increase the productivity of natural from harvesting the woodfiberresource often do so resources. Reducing the wasteful and destructive in ways that damage the forest's ability to carry out flow of resources from depletion to pollution repits other vital tasks. resents a major business opportunity. Through fundamental changes in both production design and Unfortunately, the cost of destroying ecosystem technology, farsighted companies are developing services becomes apparent only when the services ways to make natural resources - energy, minerals, start to break down. In China's Yangtze basin in 1998, for example, deforestation triggered flooding water, forests-stretch s, 10, even 100 times further than they do today. These major resource savings that killed 3,700 people, dislocated 223 million, often yield higher profits than small resource savand inundated 60 million acres of cropland. That ings do-or even saving no resources at all would$30 billion disaster forced a logging moratorium and not only pay for themselves over time but in and a $12 billion crash program of reforestation. many cases reduce initial capital investments. The reason companies |and governments) are so • Shift to biologically inspired production models. prodigal with ecosystem services is that the value Natural capitalism seeks not merely to reduce A MacArthvr Fellow, Amory B. Lovins is the research waste but to eliminate the very concept of waste. In director and CFO of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMl). closed-loop production systems, modeled on naL. Hunter Lovins is the CEO of RMI, the nonprofit reture's designs, every output either is returned harmsource pohcy center they cofounded in igfii in Snowmass, lessly to the ecosystem as a nutrient, like compost, Colorado (http://www.rmi.org). Paul Hawkcn is the or becomes an input for manufacturing another founder of the Smith a> Hawken retail and catalog comproduct. Such systems can often be designed to pany, cofounder of the knowledge-management software eliminate the use of toxic materials, which can company Datafusion. and author of Growing a Business hamper nature's ability to reprocess materials. (Simon &? Schuster, 1983; and The Ecology of Commerce (Harper Collins. 1993^ He and the Lovinses consult for • Move to a...