New definitions and terms have started to fly around and as if it is not enough to feel ourselves lost in new digital and technological era, we are also trying to figure out what is the best approach for our companies to protect us from the erosion of conventional capital oriented business models and carry us forward as a reputable, long lasting yet profitable and dynamic company. When you dive into the more common terminologies now used by almost every company’s side, social media, researches, articles and blogs, of course with the lead of Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, the prominent word is “Sustainability”.
Currently every company is trying to do their best or at least they would like to show to the Gen Z customers and stakeholders that they have embodied sustainability criterias and are now working on incorporating these criterias to their business approaches. ‘Sustainability’ becomes the ‘must’ of any marketing and PR plan and of course it is essential to secure financial investments or loans. ‘Sustainability’ even formed an entirely new consultancy, reporting, training enterprises making millions over the companies attempt to meet sustainability criterias, it is like a wave either you surf on it or wash you out.
But is it really the only way to prepare our businesses for a new era that we already tapped into? What happens if we use most of our company’s transformation energy to catch the first wave, which is sustainability and left with no source or motivation for the second and larger wave is about to come? Should not we need to use our energy, sources and motivation efficiently to sail into the open sea and not to put all our efforts to survive from one wave but to arrive at our destination in good condition.
So where is our destination? Over ten years of questioning, reading, analyzing and meditating on it, my answer to that question is: A Life Feels Whole. Not only happy, not only satisfactory, not only rich but ‘Whole’. Some may say that the ‘sustainability’ approach is the first step, best step to start with. I really do not have any objection to such statements, they may try to follow that path and it definitely contributes to a better life for all but is it really the most sustainable approach or we need to extend it later and again start to chase for broader visions?
The dilemma is, the strategy of chasing after each piece, collecting and saving happiness, richness, wealth, luxurious holidays, calm, healthy foods, inner peace to reach wholeness in life does not work. In order to feel whole and embrace the joy of balanced life we should also see the picture whole. Why can not we aim for this broader vision for now, make our plans accordingly and save energy and sources?
We need to stop correcting the pieces and create a life system method that feeds, nurtures, grows, develops and most importantly transforms itself circularly, naturally. In other words, holistically. In my opinion, as it is also highlighted by several authors like Dr. Daniel Christian Wahl, Carol Sanford and Daniel Pinchbeck, your business is an integral part of your life and your life is an integral part of life on this Earth, so if you just focus on the part you may miss the wholeness entirely. From this point of view, instead of sustainability, offering and encouraging of correcting pieces, myself and ever-increasing wing leaders are suggesting to adopt not inclusive but much more embracive models.
Build up a system that needs less energy but nurture all of its components. It starts with seeing your life as a whole, business owner/contractor of someone/customer of another, mother/father, daughter/son, tourist/local at the same time and realize how big your impact in this world is by just being you. It would not be wrong to say your lifetime would not be enough to fix all the problems you face in each of these roles but if one day you decided to be more respectful to your life, his decision echoes all the roles of your life and brings you a more positive outcome. With this decision you create a regenerative model by planting more impactful seed to the center of the potential frictions, use less effort and wait for the system you adopt to take care of you like you take care of the system as a whole.
It is the same with the businesses. Once you plant an impactful regenerative approach to the heart of your company and just take care of it, it will immediately start to show its reflections in all aspects of your business. Isn’t it more sustainable than sustainability? I totally understand that the sustainable business approach has its merits, but in the 21st century, the regenerative business approach is increasingly seen as more beneficial for companies to transform and ignite their business.
Regenerative business is an approach that goes beyond sustainability by aiming to see the whole picture and restore, renew, and enhance natural and social systems. It focuses on creating businesses that actively contribute to the regeneration of the society, environment and economy.
Regenerative businesses seek to create strong positive impacts by adopting practices that not only minimize harm but also actively restore and replenish resources, which sources would eventually serve to us as an integral part of the whole system. In a regenerative business, the emphasis is on creating a thriving ecosystem where the business is an integral part of a larger whole. It involves designing processes, products, and services that promote ecological health, social well-being, and economic prosperity.
Although regenerative businesses often engage in practices such as regenerative agriculture, circular economy models, renewable energy adoption, and community empowerment initiatives, it can be adopted to any business sector if you would be courageous enough to create a more embracing model for your life. It definitely needs more productive and creative thinking and this is the joy part of it.
Because once you start to connect the pieces, they immediately start to sing harmoniously and louder, which brings more consequential benefits for your business. Sustainable business, on the other hand, focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It involves adopting practices that minimize negative environmental and social impacts while maintaining economic viability. Sustainable businesses aim to avoid negative interaction between economic growth, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility.
Sustainable business practices include energy and resource efficiency, waste reduction, responsible sourcing, fair labor practices, and community engagement. The goal is to create long-term value while considering the environmental and social negative consequences of business activities.
The 4 key distinctions between regenerative and sustainable businesses are as follows:
Scope and intention: Regenerative business by seeing the picture as a whole, aims to go beyond sustainability by actively restoring and regenerating natural and social systems, whereas sustainable business seeks to maintain pieces in balance without focusing on how it affects the whole system. A sustainable business might focus on reducing its carbon footprint by implementing energy-efficient practices, while a regenerative business may not only reduce its own carbon emissions but also actively engage in reforestation efforts to restore ecosystems.
Systems thinking: Regenerative business embraces a systems thinking approach, considering the interconnectedness of various components and their impact on the whole ecosystem. It recognizes that business operations are part of a larger system and aims to create positive feedback loops. A regenerative business might implement closed-loop production processes where waste from one process becomes a resource for another, creating a self-sustaining system. A sustainable business, while striving for efficiency, may not necessarily incorporate closed-loop systems.
Emphasis on holistic impact: Regenerative business places a strong emphasis on holistic impact, seeking to create positive outcomes for the environment, society, and the economy. It actively seeks to restore and enhance natural and social systems. A regenerative business may focus on regenerating degraded land by implementing regenerative agricultural practices, creating habitat for wildlife, and improving soil health. A sustainable business may focus on reducing the negative impacts of its operations but may not prioritize active restoration.
Paradigm shift: Regenerative business represents a paradigm shift in how businesses perceive their role in society, aiming to create positive contributions rather than simply reducing harm. It requires a deep commitment to changing business models and systems. A regenerative business might adopt a triple bottom line approach, considering not just financial profit but also social and environmental returns on investment. A sustainable business may primarily focus on economic profit with consideration for social and environmental factors.