Connecting Problem-Solvers to Tackle the Complex Challenges at the Heart of Environment, Economy, and Society

At The Natural Step Canada, we are as clear-eyed about the complex sustainability challenges of our time as we are committed to the conviction that significant change is possible.

We are a Canada-wide team of industry leaders and practitioners, academic researchers and policy experts, highly-trained convenors, facilitators, and program designers who believe in the power of human ingenuity to solve the most pressing sustainability problems of our generation.

Meet Our Team

Our Vision is a strong and inclusive Canadian economy that thrives within nature’s limits.

Our Mission is to connect problem-solvers to generate solutions to the most complex challenges at the nexus of environment, economy, and society.

Today, Canadians, and particularly young adults, have serious doubts about whether complex and often polarized sustainability challenges can be solved at all. Fears about housing and affordability, food security, pollution, and the impacts of climate change are more acute than ever before. But optimism is in short supply.

We work at the intersection of these issues, and on changing the systems that underpin them, to bend the curve toward progress. We believe a future that is progressively better for people’s lives is worth solving for – and we believe that future is possible.

The Partnership Behind the Vision: The Natural Step Canada and Smart Prosperity Institute

In 2020, the Smart Prosperity Institute and The Natural Step Canada officially allied our energy and talent in recognition of our shared vision for a strong and inclusive Canadian economy that thrives within nature’s limits.

The Smart Prosperity Institute's world-leading research and policy expertise across diverse fields – including carbon markets, natural climate solutions, sustainable agriculture, conservation finance, and workforce development - helps to inform and achieve The Natural Step’s mission to generate actionable solutions. At the same time, by engaging in our Solution Spaces alongside problem-solvers from industry, governments and civil society, Smart Prosperity gleans critical insights that can only come from working at the frontlines of systems change. Our partnership creates a “virtuous circle” that empowers us to accomplish more together than we could alone.

Our Guiding Principles

As a diverse team driving solutions for some of the toughest challenges of our time, these principles guide how we work and make decisions.

Lead Courageously

We provide unambiguous leadership on the tough sustainability issues where we are best positioned to shape outcomes. Our relentless focus on solutions means not shying away from challenging conversations or unconventional partners.

Create the Space for Radical Collaboration

We foster collaboration and inclusivity to generate innovative solutions, respectfully surfacing divergent views and remaining vehemently non-ideological. We create the space where the best and most workable ideas can arise and get done.

Work from the Evidence

We will draw on and generate credible evidence, from academic research and people’s lived experiences, to ensure our decisions and recommendations are balanced and well-informed.

Actively Pursue JEDI and Reconciliation Journeys

Achieving our vision requires an organization-wide commitment to two different, but related, journeys: JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) and Reconciliation. We will build our internal and external capacity to make progress on both journeys with humility, respect, and a willingness to listen, learn, improve, and transform.

Think and Act on Systems

We will focus our impact on driving systems-level change. By definition, this means steering away from band-aid fixes and pursuing interventions that challenge, rather than reinforce, the status quo.

Our commitment to actively pursuing JEDI and Reconciliation journeys

We can only achieve a strong, inclusive, and sustainable Canadian economy by embracing, internalizing and acting on the principles of JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) and Reconciliation. We recognize that this requires an organization-wide commitment to two different, but related, journeys.

We will pursue our JEDI journey at all levels of our organization. This means proactively identifying the societal implications of our Solution Space work, not only to avoid unintended consequences that create or reinforce barriers, but to actively pursue solutions that advance JEDI outcomes. We recognize that, to do this effectively, we must also and simultaneously build our internal capacity and culture. We will pursue this through the evolution of JEDI-focused policies, recruitment, hiring, and retention practices, and professional development and knowledge sharing activities.

Our Reconciliation journey draws on our JEDI work, but requires additional, and unique considerations and commitments. Those include acting within our sphere of influence to uphold the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and responding to the TRC’s Calls to Action, particularly call to action #92. We will continuously aspire to be in good relations with, learn from, and support the aspirations of Indigenous People in Canada I both in how we work and in the outcomes we advance through our solution spaces.

We will pursue these two journeys, understanding they are essential to our vision and mission, with humility, respect, and a willingness to listen, learn, improve, and transform.

Karl-Henrik Robert, cancer scientist and Professor of Resource Theory at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), initiated The Natural Step movement in 1989.

Our History

Founded in 1996, The Natural Step Canada was established as part of a global network that helps organizations and individuals make meaningful progress toward sustainability. For more than three decades, The Natural Step has worked internationally with thousands of corporations, municipalities, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations to strategically advance sustainability goals. These efforts have opened new business opportunities, reduced costs, and dramatically improved ecological and social impacts. The Natural Step’s science-based framework (called the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development) is now used by forward-thinking organizations all around the world, including here in Canada.

Over the past few years The Natural Step has transitioned away from its initial organizational consultancy work, but leveraged these learnings to convene “Solution Spaces” – multi-stakeholder platforms that identify and advance opportunities for solving complex sustainability problems through systems-level innovations. We have significantly expanded the number of tools and approaches we use in our work over the years. We have also deepened our expertise in research and public policy through our strategic partnership with the Smart Prosperity Institute.