What is Regenerative Business?
Such a subject is more of a book than a Medium post, but ahead of the series of webinars I am hosting for Connectle on Regenerative Business, this Medium series is going to look at the principles of regenerative business, and profile many organisations, collectives, think tanks and companies that are currently taking a regenerative approach to the future. First, let’s look at what the foremost business thinkers, academics, and activists have to say about the idea of Regenerative Business.
A few definitions from the field of biology:
“Regeneration in Biology: regeneration is the process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes genomes, cells, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage”
“Regenerative Design: describes processes that restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials, creating sustainable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature”
So that should give us a place from which to start. ‘Restoring, revitalising and renewing own sources of energy and material’ = People & Planet? So designing businesses that protect and enhance the best qualities of the human spirit, and design how they work so that they are non extractive and replenishing? Two important aspects of business: the human experience of soul both for employees, rights holders, and any human a business touches, and its material impact on spaceship earth.
What do two leading authors on regenerative business and culture have to say?
“Regeneration goes beyond resilience or sustainability. Whatever is resilient, restored, robust, or sustainable resists or recovers from shocks and stays the same. Shocks make a regenerative business better. It rebounds and has the capacity to do more and be more.” Carol Sanford, author of The Regenerative Business
“Transformatively innovative businesses have to be viable in the current economy and simultaneously transform the business ecosystems they participate in…..the goal is to create busineses that support win-win-win solutions, systemic health and collaborative networks that serve people and planet.” Daniel Christian Wahl, author of Designing Regenerative Cultures
and academics and thinkers in the field of planetary health, economics and organisational design?
Stockholm Resilience Centre ED Johan Rockström: “Humanity has reached a new turbulent state, where social, economic and environmental changes interact with unexpected outcomes for our businesses and nations. It is of critical importance that science and business together co-design strategies to transition into a safe operating space and build resilience in the face of unavoidable surprise.”
“The reporting function can be a catalyst to trigger the emergence of a regenerative and inclusive global economy. To achieve this transformation, we need collaborative, pre-competitive, neutral spaces where rightsholders from across the reporting spectrum gather to co-create the design needs and pilot new best practices for future-fit reporting” Ralph Thurm, co-founder Reporting 3.0.
What about the principles of regenerative business design? In 2015 The Capital Institute released a white paper outlining a series of principles it felt could be the ‘source code’ to designing regenerative economies:
In Right Relationship: right relationship deals with reversing the global narrative of separation. Separation between the human species and the natural world; separation between humans of different races, religions, beliefs; separation between humans and their own sense of soul. Right relationship in business could be interpreted as being operating in such a way that a business respects the rights of all other living beings with the ecosystem of the planet. It is a way of thinking about how we approach decision-making and strategy. Being in ‘right relationship’ is also one of the founding principles of psychosynthesis.
Innovative, Adaptive, Responsive: an approach to design that echoes what Darwin actually meant rather than how he has been interpreted. In the struggle for survival…the one that is the most adaptable to a changing environment..survives.
Empowered Participation: contributing to the health of the whole. The quality of empowered participation means that all parts must be “in relationship” with the larger whole in ways that not only empower them to negotiate for their own needs, but also enable them to add their unique contribution towards the health and well-being of the larger wholes in which they are embedded.
Edge Effect Abundance: anyone who has worked in the creative sector knows that the fire of innovation happens at the edges of culture. where the bonds holding the dominant pattern in place are weakest. As The Capital Institute explains, there is an abundance of interdependent life in salt marshes where a river meets the ocean. At those edges the opportunities for innovation and cross-fertilization are the greatest. Working collaboratively across edges — with ongoing learning and development sourced from the diversity that exists there — is transformative for both the communities where the exchanges are happening, and for the individuals involved.
Robust Circular Flow: the circular economy is beginning to take root. Thanks to the efforts of organisation like Ellen Macarthur Foundation and Forum for the Future, many manufacturing businesses are exploring the possibilities of circularity. “Economic health depend on robust circulatory flows of money, information, resources, and goods and services to support exchange, flush toxins, and nourish every cell at every level of our human networks. The circulation of money and information and the efficient use and reuse of materials are particularly critical to individuals, businesses, and economies reaching their regenerative potential.”
Seeks Balance: a regenerative economy seeks to balance: efficiency and resilience; collaboration and competition; diversity and coherence; and small, medium, and large organizations’ needs. Sounds to simple to say, but oh, how hard this is to reimagine. The struggle to balance collaboration and competition alone requires us to abandon training of generations to compete; to leave behind the misconceived notion of survival fo the fittest. Yet many pre-competitive collaborations are emerging. Forum for the Future, Reporting 3.0, Ellen Macarthur Foundation — all these organisations are finding ways to bring businesses together in pursuit of a regenerative future.
Views Wealth Holistically: a deep shift in mindset, narrative and operating design which takes a multicapitalist approach to value. Valuing all ‘rightsholders’ including natural, social, living, experiential capital as well as financial capital. How can busiensses learn to be sufficient? How can we redesign the idea of constant growth into enough? What changes in business incentives, employment, taxation, do we need to think about to design a better experience of holistic health?
I like all of these key principles. One other idea which I think stretches across whole approach is connectivity. The reciprocal open sharing of information and knowledge. The ability to pay it forward and pass on education and learning to individuals, through businesses, in business school redesign. Carving out time to have connected conversations which allow for more meaningful relationships. It also embraces the technology that is going to walk alongside us into the future, but ideally with the above principles applied to its use. Would that mean no more Facebook with its manipulative strategies for the use of human data? Quite possibly.
We’ll be looking at all of these ideas and principles in our first Connectle Conversation on Regenerative Business which is happening on October 23rd at 9am UK time. You can be involved in the conversation and register for the first webinar HERE