What is the difference between the RoundView and The Natural Step?

The RoundView has built upon the rigour, research and systems thinking of The Natural Step, and owes a great debt to this valuable work. The key difference is that in the RoundView, there is a systematic and rigorous formulation of a set of positive Guidelines. These can be seen as polar opposites to the ‘Misguided Lines’ – which show us what we need to stop doing. Developing a set of Guidelines and Misguided Lines that could act as poles enabled us to develop the RoundView evaluation tool (which is designed to enable a systematic way of evaluating if something is heading towards or away from whole system sustainability). In the Natural Step, sustainability principles are formulated as not violating the system conditions for sustainability. There is no distinct, positive formulation of what we should be working towards.

The first two Misguided lines of the RoundView (Overwhelm and Poison) are reformulations of the first two system conditions of The Natural Step. This emerged from an attempt to improve accessibility and to develop a set of clear graphics that showed the concepts of how we act unsustainably on a whole system level, whilst maintaining the robustness of the links between the Guidelines and the underlying scientific principles that have been clearly identified and described in The Natural Step. The RoundView Misguided Lines looking at material flows focus more on the mechanism of harm than on the the source of the materials, which is what the Natural Step’s system conditions focus on.

To read more about these difference, you might like to read this report from the research that helped develop the RoundView: Scaling-up – Learning to embed sustainability skills and knowledge in the workplace.