The Future of Business is Regenerative
Written by Stephen Vasconcellos.
We’re well past the point that prioritizing Sustainability makes sense. The great challenge of our time is now to restore our planet’s health and regenerate her ecosystems. That means doing a whole lot more good.
Whereas Sustainability was about doing less bad, we need a Regenerative Economy geared up to do a whole lot more good. This distinction is subtle but key in a world that has been consuming 1.75x her ability to regenerate every year (also known as earth “overshoot”). Because we have been consuming beyond our means since the 1970s, ecosystems are on the brink and close to collapse. Pivoting our economy can change that.
The pursuit of a sustainable economy has been a noble enterprise, though one which is ultimately misguided. Sustainability views the planet as a resource for sharing whereas a Regenerative approach recognizes Earth as a conscious living being and demands that we assume the role of caretakers where we only take what we need, and restore the areas we impact. Regenerative businesses support win-win-win solutions, promote systemic health, support collaborative networks and serve people and planet. Instead of taking a siloed approach to bolting on Sustainability, as most corporates have been doing since embracing the concept, we take a systemic 360 degree viewpoint, placing the company, as an organism, within the complex and interconnected web of life. Regenerative businesses are also in the business of systems-change, albeit by stepping back into alignment with Nature’s rhythms and flows, and a return to the much healthier natural order.
Positive is a new social enterprise tasked with the mission of supporting a new Regenerative economy powered by purpose-led businesses. We have chosen to build upon new power principles i.e. powered largely by our community — because this is a collab which our members will drive. In order to come up with a framework that can empower us all to grow and thrive, we have looked to Nature, not just for our inspiration, but also as a partner.
We are currently developing a framework with supporting tools, a handbook, and benchmarking to guide our members and help them flourish. Our intention is for businesses, which we see as complex organisms, to reclaim their place in the interconnected web of life. Our mission is about creating a regenerative economy that works in harmony with, and honours, the complex dynamics that support the health of the whole system. Our vision is of a future with a thriving economy powered by purpose-led companies, living comfortably within the planetary boundaries (Planetary Boundaries, Johan Rockström 2009) and respecting people and planet. As we build this economy of the future, there are 4 core values embedded within our Positive Compass.
Right Relationship with Nature (PLANET)
Being in harmony with and respecting our place in the interconnected web of life — expressing our fullest essence in relation to the healthiest expression of other entities in the system. Just as each tree has a reciprocal relationship with other entities in the forest.
Elevating Human Potential (PEOPLE)
Nurturing wellbeing, encouraging participation and creating the conditions for people to thrive within an inclusive and stimulating space with strong and transparent governance. Companies are like organisms. Just as in our own bodies we observe that our cells may have different functions and sizes, each has a special role and are supported by the whole.
Empowering Communities (PLACES)
We empower communities, honouring each place in its own unique way. We recognize each place is different and has its own special needs both from an ecological and cultural perspective. Just as every tree in the forest is unique, so are the ecosystems they support.
Recognizing Value for All (PARTNERS)
Recognizing ‘shared value’ and lifting others up so everyone can make their unique contribution to a healthier system, and we rise together. As with all ecosystems we recognize that the health and wellbeing of our organism is interdependent on the health of the wider system.
So, what does it mean to be a Regenerative Business?
Firstly, we must commit to positive carbon impact by 2030; our businesses also must be fully circular by then. We must commit to reducing our environmental footprints and restoring the places we impact; find new ways of empowering participation in our teams; inspire learning and development; promote employee wellbeing; build healthy supply chains; pay fair value to our partners; and engage with and positively impact our communities and commit to paying fair tax.
We launched our movement — and manifesto for change — in September 2020 with the support of 100 founding members, already pioneering in important areas, with change baked into their DNA. We want to get inspired by — and inspire — innovative solutions to make the world a better place, and to drive systems-change. We are inviting change agents, activists, academics at the cutting edge, and change-maker companies to make a 5–10-year commitment to positive impact. A number of incredible mission-led companies have already heeded that call.
If this resonates with you as a changemaker we want to hear from you.
As we do so, we are emboldened by the words of the chemist and Nobel Laureate, Illya Prigogine.
“When a system is far from equilibrium small islands of coherence in a sea of chaos have the capacity to lift the entire system to a higher order.”