Regenerative Economics: Generating Systemic Wealth — Part 2, What is Real Wealth?
Real wealth generation requires increasing capacity in all members of a living system — all stakeholders — so that each new generation of wealth building extends and evolves the last. It is rooted in their evolving ability and propensity to express essence — for themselves, their materials, and those that they serve.
I’m often asked how far out the responsible corporation should extend itself in thinking about systems? “Should I go all the way out to the universe?” people joke. I reply, “Go out as far as you can understand. Ultimately you should be able to hold the planet on which we live. But start with the systems that you affect, and learn to see them whole. This grows the mind’s capacity to take into account increasingly larger, more complex, or more ordered systems.”
For a responsible corporation, this means looking beyond those who directly provide raw materials or buy finished products (that’s the open systems view.) It requires establishing beneficial and contributing relationships with the places where raw materials come from and finished products go. It requires adopting the habit of seeing everything as alive and able to be developed.
Merida Case Story
Merida Meridian produces natural fiber (such as jute, sisal, or wool) rugs for commercial and residential use. It emphasizes design quality and innovative production practices as a way to fully engage the creative skill of its co-creators, many of whom live in or come from rural communities in the developing world. The company has strong value for the cultural expertise brought by its co-creators, and acknowledges their stature as artisans.
Though Catherine Connelly, the president of Merida Meridian, is quick to point out that her company falls far short of its aspirations, it continues to work on development for its suppliers. Merida supports cooperatives in Brazil and small weaving companies across Asia, working with each to improve its design capacity and ability to manage a business so that it can grow into employing more community members through time. Merida helps these small businesses understand their effects on the living systems from which they draw their raw materials, so that they can secure an increasingly reliable source for livelihood. The aim is to help local communities and landscapes increase the ability to determine their own futures through their ongoing relationship with Merida.
These relationships are also mutually beneficial. Merida has moved from offering generic bulk products for big box retailers to working directly with leading interior designers to create bespoke rugs that fit their vision. Their skilled craftspeople participate in a co-creative process with the designers’ brands and Merida is able to communicate the value of their natural, non toxic, and handmade offerings much better than when selling through chain stores. Ultimately, Merida is positioning itself to be non displaceable in the lives of its customers, while contributing to the health of their supplier’s communities and growing its bottom line at the same time.
To read more about Merida’s transformation, see my article in Conscious Company Magazine. In the next part of this series on generating systemic wealth, we’ll expose three myths about wealth generation, as revealed through the living systems view of what constitutes true wealth.