On behalf of the The Natural Step’s international member council and board, I would like to express my appreciation for all the pioneering work and contributions of Professor Karl-Henrik Robèrt, who has decided to resign from his roles at The Natural Step.

It has been almost 30 years since The Natural Step was founded in Sweden by oncologist Dr Karl-Henrik Robèrt. The Natural Step story is in many ways Karl-Henrik’s life story; and his sharp mind, big personality and charisma have played a large role in shaping our identity.

Karl-Henrik set up The Natural Step after the success of a scientific consensus-building process he led to raise awareness about what sustainable development really entails. His early work and development of the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) rapidly became a movement that spread into the boardrooms of corporations and halls of government. International expansion followed soon after, and today The Natural Step is a global force with member organisations in Canada, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Israel, China and New Zealand.

The dialogue between science and its application has been a defining feature of The Natural Step’s work to develop the framework, and Karl-Henrik has been the driving force behind this. It is a testament to him that so many people around the world have dedicated themselves to contributing to, and using such a rich body of knowledge. His work has truly spread beyond himself, and well beyond The Natural Step global network.

Karl-Henrik’s decision to resign follows a period of disagreement with the organisation’s leadership about its strategic direction and operations, both in Sweden and internationally. We respect his opinions on these issues, but so must we respect the governance processes of our organisation.  Ultimately, the board and member council have a different view about how The Natural Step should move forward to achieve its mission most effectively.

With the increasing pace of change in society, we believe The Natural Step’s best approach is to focus on implementation of FSSD, rather than investing directly in development of the underlying scientific research.  Indeed, much of the scientific development work relating to the framework has been outsourced to external academic partners for many years. This has allowed The Natural Step to focus its efforts on improving skills and tools for applying the framework in ways that deliver more value to organisations, whilst at the same time accelerating their sustainability journeys.

These two different roles (scientific research and implementation of research) are complementary, but require quite different capabilities. Independent research adds credibility and ensures the framework is truly ‘open-sourced’. But, there is also an urgent need for its application to be tailored to different audiences and spread as rapidly as possible for the benefit of the world. We believe The Natural Step is well-positioned and best equipped for the latter.

Karl-Henrik will be missed. His ongoing work as a Professor in sustainable development at Blekinge Institute of Technology will continue to be highly appreciated and relevant to The Natural Step. On behalf of all of us at The Natural Step – past and present – I want to thank Karl-Henrik for everything he has contributed over so many years, and his ongoing work to progress global sustainable development.

With warmest affection and gratitude to Kalle – friend, Founder, Professor, Visionary, Blue Planet Laureate and Ashoka Fellow.

Simon Harvey,
The Natural Step New Zealand,
Board member of The Natural Step International

For inquiries concerning scientific development and research related to the framework, please contact the Alliance for Strategic Sustainable Development. The alliance is a research collaboration platform founded in 2009 by The Natural Step, Blekinge Institute of Technology and Lund University with the support of five major Swedish funding agencies.