Natural Step Study Circles

A Variety of Time and Place Options Available for

Door County Natural Step Sustainability Study Circles

The Natural Step for Business

(TNS-Biz) Study Circle

The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) and Sustain Door will offer a second TNS for Business course beginning February 22 and continuing through March 29, 2010. Interested business and community leaders are encouraged to register early, because the class size will be limited in order to optimize discussion. For more information, contact Ann Hippensteel of Sustain Door (, 743-3337) or Sam Perlman of DCEDC (, 743-3113 x204).


Sustain Door Offers Natural Step Sustainability Study Circle in Sturgeon Bay

Sustain Door, Inc. a local not-for-profit organization which promotes the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of Door County is offering a free 7-week book discussion course about sustainable development. County residents concerned about the effects of climate change, resource scarcity, and environmental degradation on our way of life are encouraged to participate.

Based on concepts in the book, The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices by Sarah James and Torbjorn Lahti, the study circle is the 17th conducted in Door County since January of 2006. Over 100 local residents have participated in these discussion groups and many continue to study and work toward a sustainable future through Sustain Door, Inc.

The first meeting for discussion will be held Monday, October 12th at 6:30 pm in the conference room of the Door County Library in Sturgeon Bay. The study circle will run weekly through November 16th. Interested persons should contact Ann Hippensteel, study circle facilitator, for details or to register for the discussion group.

The Natural Step is a model upon which 24 Wisconsin communities have based official sustainability resolutions, thereby adopting “eco-municipality” status. In the United States, Wisconsin leads the eco-municipality movement. Churches, schools, businesses and other organizations have also applied Natural Step principles to their operations and procedures.

Natural Step study circles are free and open to the public. Participants need to acquire a copy of the James and Lahti book in order to contribute to the discussion. Copies are available for $25.00 from Ann Hippensteel, 743-3337 or Proceeds from the sale of the book are used to support the educational programs of Sustain Door, Inc. including the annual Door County Sustainability Fair.

There are also copies of the book available for loan through the public library system.


Door County Economic Development Corporation and Sustain Door Partner in Presenting a Course in Sustainable Business

The Natural Step for Business Course Schedule

5:30 - 7:30 in the DCEDC Conference Room

Thursday, Sept 10th – Introduction to The Natural Step. Film: A Passion for Sustainability (How fourteen businesses, including large companies like NIKE and smaller mom and pop’s like HotLips Pizza, operate according to The Natural Step framework.)

Thursday, Sept 17th – Part One: Designing the Future – Discussion about Chapters 1 – 3. Film: The Business Case for Sustainability by Bob Willard, author of The Sustainability Advantage.

Thursday, Sept 24th – Two Case Studies: IKEA and Scandic Hotels – Discussion about Chapters 4, 5. Guest presentation: Sustainability: Its Drivers and Financial/Economic Impacts on Businesses by Roger Kuhns, PhD, Black & Veatch, Sustainable Development.

Thursday, Oct 1st – Two More Case Studies: Interface, Inc. and Collins Pine Company – Discussion about Chapters 6, 7. Guest presentation: Sustainable Business Networking and the Madison Mpower Program by Bryant Moroder, Sustain Dane.

Thursday, Oct 8th – Part Three: The Evolutionary Journey – Discussion about Chapters 8 -10. Where do we go from here?

Do you worry about creating a "sustainable world"? Do you wonder how your business could prosper while contributing to this goal? Are you hungry for examples of businesses that are actually making significant progress towards sustainability? The Natural Step for Business course, co-sponsored by Sustain Door, Inc. and the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) will provide a forum for local business and community leaders to explore answers to these and other related questions. The course begins Thursday, September 10th and runs for a period of five weeks through October 8th, 5:30-7:30pm in the DCEDC conference room. The course will be conducted as a book discussion with participants reading assigned chapters of The Natural Step for Business by Brian Nattrass and Mary Altomare. Outside of the purchase of the book, the course is free and open to any interested individuals.

The Natural Step is a flexible and adaptable framework based on indisputable scientific principles such as the laws of thermodynamics, which provides a basis for large and small businesses and other organizations to advance toward sustainability. By following The Natural Step in business practices, these organizations contribute to the efforts to preserve the conditions for life for future generations, while prospering financially.

"There's a lot of interest in sustainability in the state," says Renny Lea, small business co-owner and member of Sustain Door, Inc. "What keeps most business people from looking into it is the time factor and defining what sustainability is. The Natural Step has provided a framework guiding businesses toward sustainability, and we'll be taking a closer look at how it's done."

In addition to group discussion about applying concepts found in the readings to local businesses and organizations, arrangements have been made for video and in-person presentations by experts in the field of sustainable development. Highlights in the study circle schedule include presentations by Roger Kuhns, PhD who will speak from his varied experience and current position in sustainable development at Black & Veatch, Inc. about the economic factors that both drive and impact businesses’ efforts to incorporate sustainable practices. Bryant Moroder of Sustain Dane, an organization which has moved Dane County, Wisconsin along a path toward sustainability, will speak about the City of Madison’s MPower program, a networking organization for early adopters of sustainable practices among organizations in that city.

To facilitate discussion, the course is limited to twelve participants. For more information or to register for the class, contact Ann Hippensteel at or 920-743-3337 by September 4th.


III. Alternatives Identification and Recommendation

II. Using The Natural Step to Assess the Practices of the Organization

I. Current Sustainability Progress and Issues


Course Overview

This course will expose participants to business applications of sustainability. In this course, the term ‘sustainability’ addresses: a systemic approach to developing and implementing government policies and corporate strategies that create long term economic value, enhance the health of social systems, and eliminate harm to ecological systems. The systemic approach of this course entails consideration of the:

 Interdependencies of economic, social and ecological systems.

 Challenges and opportunities that the interdependencies place upon business managers and NGO leaders.

 Strategic and operational approaches taken by organizations and corporations to overcome the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the interdependencies.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students should have achieved the following four course objectives.

1) Gained a working definition of sustainability and an in-depth understanding of sustainability issues.

2) Acquired an appreciation for the contribution TNS has already provided businesses and organizations working toward sustainability.

3) Learned how multiple stakeholders (business, government and policy makers, NGOs) interact and engage around key sustainability issues.

4) Developed awareness and application of strategies and operational tactics employed to address sustainability issues.

Required Readings

A copy of the book, "The Natural Step for Business: Wealth, Ecology and the Evolutionary Corporation" by Brian Nattrass and Mary Altomare must be acquired through the public library system, from local bookstores, or from Sustain Door, Inc. Proceeds from the sale of the book through Sustain Door, are used to support the educational and outreach activities of this 501c3 organization.


The course will be a shared exploration by all participants, conducted as a book discussion, and facilitated by several members of Sustain Door who have led 16 Natural Step study circles over the past three years.

Course Structure

1. Attendance. The success of this discussion-based learning opportunity is dependent on the attendance of a majority of the registered participants who have prepared themselves by reading the assigned material for each meeting and, when appropriate, done outside research on a particular business or organization.

2. Local case study analysis. Each participant will be asked to study over the course of the five weeks, a particular business or organization with which he/she is familiar, to determine the relative progress toward sustainability that the business is achieving. Participants are encouraged to use the Local Case Study Analysis Framework as a guide in this study and to share through discussion, all or any part of the analysis they are comfortable sharing with the group.

3. Additional speakers and audio-visual materials will be utilized as appropriate.



A. Identify the stage of the Sustainability Learning Curve (see text pg.16) at which this organization currently stands. Explain your reasons for this assessment. (Does the organization have an environmental management policy? Does it have a policy regarding its relationships with stakeholders – employees, investors, customers, suppliers, etc? Does the organization have a commitment to economic profitability?)

B. Describe the key sustainability-related issue or issues (social, environmental, economic) which relate most directly to this business or organization. Consider the following categories of impact:

a. Waste reduction, reuse, and recycling

b. Energy efficiency, conservation, and management

c. Water conservation and wastewater management

d. Air quality

e. Wildlife and landscape conservation and management

f. Transportation

g. Purchasing

h. Sustainability education for stakeholders

i. Local community

C. Describe the internal (i.e., inside the organization) and external (i.e., outside the organization) challenges this organization faces in effectively dealing with/solving the key sustainability-related issue or issues.

In what ways is this business/organization . . .

• dependent on fossil fuels? Upon scarce metals and minerals?

• dependent upon persistent chemicals and uses of synthetics?

• encroaching on nature?

• not meeting basic needs fairly or efficiently? (What are those basic needs?)

Identify and describe at least three alternative and preferable courses of action, strategies, or tactics that this organization can pursue in an attempt to enhance its sustainability index. Remember to consider environmental, social, and economic aspects of your recommendations. A business/organization is not sustainable if it can not make a profit, maintain its competitive position, and/or successfully deliver its products, services, programs, etc.