EcoSTEPS has developed a coherent conceptual framework that links together all the various dimensions of sustainability in a systems approach. This is represented and explained using the metaphor of a ‘Sustainability Tree’.
The framework is based on Australian and international principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). It incorporates a number of other well known concepts and approaches, including: UN Local Agenda 21, The Natural Step, Earth Charter, Environmental Management Systems (ISO 14001), Ecological Footprint, Natural Capitalism, Life Cycle Analysis etc.
The Sustainability Tree is an extremely useful starting point in generating consensus amongst internal and external stakeholders. It allows everyone to talk a ‘common language’ as they gain an appreciation of the different dimensions and components of the sustainability agenda. Starting out at the "roots" (Science, Ethics and Values) and then progressing up the "trunk" with first order principles of ESD. The three main "branches" (Triple Bottom Line) lead into the more detailed areas of strategies, plans, management systems and indicators. At the top of the tree, the "leaves" represent the actions and interests of individual stakeholders.
“As above – so below”. Beneath the ground are the roots – the realms of science, ethics, values and mental constructs. That’s another story, which is still unfolding…