L Hunter Lovins

In 1999, executives at DuPont boldly pledged to reduce the company's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 65 percent below their 1990 levels by 2010 as part of a company-wide strategy to lighten its environmental impact. The plan, in part, was to diversify the product line—shedding divisions such as nylon and pharmaceuticals to focus on materials that reduce greenhouse gases, such as Tyvek house wraps for energy efficiency. The plan worked: by 2007 DuPont had cut emissions 72 percent below 1991 levels, reduced its global energy use 7 percent, and, in the process, saved itself $3 billion. DuPont now plans to go beyond mere efficiency improvements to make products that mimic nature, including plant-based chemicals like Bio-PDO that can replace petroleum in polymers, detergents, cosmetics, and antifreeze.1 DuPont's actions—and similar ones in dozens of other firms—reflect a recognition that the way goods and services are produced must be radically rethought in this sustainability century. Over the past 100 years, the way humans made and sold goods and services took a heavy toll. Now, smart companies recognize the need to move beyond business as usual to meet people's needs in sustainable ways.

Every year the world digs up, puts through various resource crunching processes, and then throws away over a half-trillion tons of stuff. Less than 1 percent of the materials is embodied in a product and still there six months after sale. All of the rest is waste. This pattern of production and the consumption it engenders now threaten every ecosystem on Earth. In March 2005, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan observed that "the very basis for life on earth is declining at an alarming rate."2

By the time most human artifacts have been designed but before they have been built, 80-90 percent of their lifecycle eco

L. Hunter Lovins is president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions and a professor of business at the Presidio School of Management.

Rethinking Production nomic and ecological costs have already become inevitable. For example, this book you are holding, the seat in which you are sitting, the airplane in which you may be flying, the terminal at which you will land, the vehicle in which you will continue your trip are all the result of myriad choices made by policymakers, designers, engineers, craftspeople, marketers, distributors, and so on. Each step represents opportunities to deliver the idea, the part, or the production process in ways that use more or fewer resources and result in a superior or suboptimal end-result. Thinking in a more holistic way and choosing more wisely at each step can reduce the impacts of these choices on the planet and its inhabitants.3

This is the foundation of Natural Capitalism, the framework of sustainability that describes how to meet needs in ways that achieve durable competitive advantage, solve most of the environmental and many of the social challenges facing the planet at a profit, and ensure a higher quality of life for all people. It is based on three principles:

• Buy the time that is urgently needed to deal with the growing challenges facing the planet by using all resources far more productively.

• Redesign how we make all products and provide services, using such approaches as biomimcry and cradle to cradle.

• Manage all institutions to be restorative of human and natural capital.4

The good news is that meeting human needs while using less stuff can be more profitable and can deliver a higher standard of living than continuing with current practices. Combined with efforts to lower consumption (see Chapter 4), practices that raise resource efficiency, circulate materials rather than dump them, and imitate nature offer a new model of prosperity for an environmentally degraded and poverty-stricken planet.

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