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An Essential Guide to Key 21st-Century Social and Business skills

11 min read

Dec 7, 2023

Today we need to be be more than sustainable in business, we need to be regenerative. In an era where climate warming is accelerating, the global economy has become increasingly interconnected, it is more difficult than ever to ignore the consequences of our actions.



Decoupling economic growth from ecological destruction is becoming increasingly essential if we are to create a positive future. Therefore, we must find ways to create economic growth while protecting our environment and natural resources.


We need to update our business goals from being about profit and the environment to building a regenerative green economy that meets the needs of business, the planet, people, families, community and society.


In today’s world, businesses have an obligation to help protect the planet and its resources.


This is all the more important when you’re the owner and boss of the business.


Regeneration is a powerful tool that can be used to ensure that businesses are doing their part in preserving the environment. By using regeneration, companies can reduce their environmental footprint, increase sustainability, and create positive long-term effects for the planet.


Regeneration in business is about more than just reducing waste or recycling materials; it involves finding ways to use resources more efficiently and sustainably. For example, companies can explore renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power, develop innovative products that use fewer resources, or focus on more than circular production models where materials are reused and recycled.


Patagonia has stopped using the word ‘sustainable’ as they recognise we have to give more than we take from the environment.


The World Economic Forum recognises that being sustainable won’t be enough in the long run to address our social, environmental and economic challenges and that companies should aim to promote the restoration and regeneration of natural resources and social systems.


Adopting ESG principles is today a driver of long term growth as customers, suppliers and investors are expecting to see a company adopt green growth initiatives.

“.. the world is reaching the tipping point beyond which climate change may become irreversible. If this happens, we risk denying present and future generations the right to a healthy and sustainable planet – the whole of humanity stands to lose.” Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of UN

Other big brands like Unilever, Pepsico and Timberland are adopting a business vision of regeneration too. They see that it’s not just the environment we need to consider but social capital, human, intellectual and financial capital too as well as the products and services provided every year.


In 2016, an international study was conducted that analysed companies’ practices for regeneration. The study found that 20% of company revenues in North America came from products and services related to renewal in one form or another. This statistic would only be expected to increase as companies adopt practices such as reusing materials and expanding their use to create new products, processes, or services.


However, being more than sustainable is required. There are seven reasons why sustainability and NET ZERO will not address climate warming these include not addressing past pollution, a lack of vision, and a growing economy. Regeneration and sustainability are essential concepts for creating a sustainable and thriving future, but they focus on different aspects of this goal.


Sustainability is about maintaining the current state of our environment and society by ensuring that our use of natural resources and social systems does not exceed their capacity to regenerate and support us. In addition, it involves reducing our negative impact on the environment and society, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions or promoting social equity.


Regeneration, on the other hand, goes beyond sustainability by actively restoring and enhancing the natural and social systems we rely on. It involves regenerating natural resources, rebuilding ecosystems, and creating more equitable and resilient social systems.

Regeneration seeks to create a world that is not just sustainable but also regenerative and restorative. Therefore, while sustainability is essential, renewal is needed more than sustainability to make a genuinely sustainable and thriving future.


By regenerating natural and social systems, we can create a more resilient, equitable, and thriving world and ensure that we have a livable planet for generations to come.


Why we need to change our perception of problems in the 21st century

In a rapidly changing world, the twenty-first century has brought several new challenges, and how we perceive and address these problems needs to change if we are to tackle them successfully.


From global warming and climate change to inequality and the refugee crisis, our current approach is no longer enough; it is essential to cultivate new thinking patterns to stay ahead of the curve. In the most extensive study on climate change data and corporations, 8,000 supplier companies (that sell to seventy-five multinationals) reported their level of climate risk. Of the respondents, 72% said that climate change presents risks that could significantly impact their operations, revenue, or expenditures.


“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Dr Jane Goodall, Scientist & Activist

We must look beyond traditional solutions and embrace innovative thinking to progress. By understanding the need for change, we can develop strategies to help us overcome these challenges more effectively.


To do this, we must be creative, open-minded, and willing to explore new ideas and practices. We can also use brainstorming, mind mapping, and lateral thinking tools to help us develop innovative solutions.


We should also reflect on our experiences and learn from them to apply those lessons in the future. By doing so, we can ensure that we constantly evolve our thinking patterns to keep up with the changing world around us.


What is a REM (Regenerative, Ethical, and Mindful) business?

Regenerative businesses are a new type of business model that focuses on sustainability and creating positive social and environmental impacts. Big brands are leaning toward regeneration as a means to embed purpose into their company in an enduring way. They are designed to create value for society, the environment, and the economy, while also delivering financial returns to shareholders.


They are an emerging trend in the business world as more companies strive to make their operations more sustainable and ethical. Regenerative businesses strive to create a circular economy by reusing resources, reducing waste, and investing in renewable energy sources.

They also prioritise social responsibility by providing fair wages and benefits for employees, supporting local communities through philanthropy initiatives, and promoting diversity in the workplace. By doing so, they can help build strong relationships with stakeholders while ensuring long-term profitability.


A regenerative business acknowledges its place in the entire system where it operates, its community, its industry, and its resources, and uses that knowledge of interdependence in their strategic decision making.


The 5Cs of 21st century skills and competencies – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, cultural and civic competence – are crucial for businesses to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world.


Regenerative, ethical, and mindful businesses prioritise long-term thinking and planning. This involves considering the impact of decisions and actions on future generations and striving to create a sustainable future.


By fostering a culture that values these skills and developing training programs that support their development, companies can attract and retain top talent, improve decision-making processes, and enhance their ability to innovate and adapt to change. Additionally, overall, REM businesses are those that prioritise regeneration and strive to create positive social and environmental impact. By adopting these practices, businesses can create an equitable future for all, a competitive edge critical for business success in the 21st century.

Regenerative, ethical, and mindful businesses are those that prioritise regenerative practices and strive to create positive social and environmental impact.


The sense of purpose that comes from creating a REM business improves team performance and productivity. Research has shown that connected teams are 21% more profitable. This is likely due to the simple fact that happy employees are more productive employees as we discussed in How to use Workplace Personality Tests to Improve Team Productivity.


For example, 37% of employees say working in a great team is their primary reason for staying at a company. In fact, some 54% of employees say a strong sense of community including great coworkers kept them at a company longer than was in their best interest.


Regenerative practices

Regenerative businesses focus on restoring and renewing natural systems and resources. This can include adopting circular economy principles, investing in regenerative agriculture, and promoting renewable energy.


Ethical practices

Ethical businesses prioritise social responsibility and ethical practices in all aspects of their operations. This can include fair labour practices, ethical sourcing of materials, and responsible marketing.


Mindful practices

Mindful businesses prioritise mindfulness and conscious decision-making in all aspects of their operations. This can include reducing waste, promoting eco-friendly practices, and engaging in community outreach and education. Regenerative, ethical, and mindful businesses prioritise engagement with all stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the wider community. This can involve listening to feedback, responding to concerns, and taking action to improve social and environmental impact.

Twenty-first century social and business skills

In the 21st century, the 5Cs of skills and competencies are essential for success in any field. These five Cs, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical thinking, and Civic and Cultural skills, are the building blocks of any modern workplace.


They apply to all industries and professions and can help individuals develop proficiency in many areas. With these five Cs, you become a more effective leader and team player while better understanding the world around you. Furthermore, mastering these five Cs can make you an invaluable asset to your organisation or team.


We identified five core skills for the 21st century leader that create a focus on the interactions between people, and improving the outcome of those engagements. These skills support the leadership skills we defined in How to Develop Leadership Skills for the 21st Century.


The 5Cs of 21st century skills and competencies are essential for individuals to be successful in their careers and life.


These skills are the foundation for a successful future, as they help people to become more creative, critical thinkers and problem solvers.


Each of these skills is important in its own way, as they all help individuals become more well-rounded and capable professionals. By mastering the 5Cs of 21st century skills & competencies, individuals can gain an edge over their competition in the job market.

They can also develop better relationships with peers and colleagues by communicating effectively with them.



Rethink Telephone Skills Training


These social and business skills can help businesses achieve their goals and objectives by creating an environment of trust and collaboration among employees. Businesses can ensure that all employees are on the same page regarding company policies and procedures. This will also help to increase efficiency and productivity while creating a positive work culture.


Examples of how these skills can be applied in the workplace include providing clear job descriptions for each role within an organisation, encouraging collaboration between departments through team-building activities, fostering creativity through brainstorming sessions or hackathons, committing to deadlines and tasks set by management, and actively communicating with both internal and external stakeholders.


The 5Cs help individuals develop adaptability skills to navigate the constantly changing landscape of the 21st century. The ability to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and be creative while demonstrating strong character traits helps individuals stay ahead of the curve.


Employers today are looking for individuals who possess the 5Cs. These skills make individuals more employable and more valuable to their organisations.


The world is becoming more interconnected, and the 5Cs help individuals work effectively in a global environment. Communication and collaboration skills are essential in this regard.

The 5Cs are not just skills necessary in the workplace. They are also crucial for lifelong learning and personal growth. Individuals who possess these skills are better equipped to learn and adapt throughout their lives.


Effective communication skills

Effective communication is essential for promoting regeneration, as it enables the sharing of information, building awareness, and engaging stakeholders. Communication skills enable individuals and organisations to articulate their sustainability goals, share best practices, and build consensus around sustainable outcomes.


Communication is one of the most critical skills to succeed today. It is essential for connecting with people, expressing ideas and opinions, and working together to solve problems.


Good communication also helps build relationships and create a positive environment. In addition, it helps us understand each other better, which leads to better decision-making.

Communication is a crucial component of the 5Cs because it allows us to effectively express ourselves, collaborate with others and become engaged citizens in our society. Businesses need to have effective communication strategies if they want to succeed.


Five ways to improve communication skills

  1. Recognise that the message you send has more to do with the way it is heard than how it is said. So increase awareness of your own emotions and that of the recipient before communicating your message.

  2. Listen and seek to understand first. It’s all too easy to be reactive in communication, but pause and consider carefully your words to increase communication effectiveness.

  3. Be interested in the other person. In the classic book on communication skills, “How to Influence People and Win Friends” by Dale Carnegie, he says imagine the other person has MMFI on their forehead, “Make Me Feel Important.”

  4. Consider carefully the emotion you’re intending to create in the other person. They’ll feel it before they hear it, before they respond.

  5. Recognise your words are perhaps only 10% of the message; tone of voice, intonation, facial expression, body language, eye contact, directness, speed of delivery are all playing their part too.

Communicative thinking helps companies to think more strategically about communicating with their customers, employees, and other stakeholders. It also helps them identify opportunities for improvement and develop better relationships with those who interact with their brand.


Communication thinking enables businesses to create meaningful customer experiences that increase loyalty and engagement. Companies can succeed in today’s competitive landscape by understanding the importance of communication thinking in the 5Cs of 21st Century Skills & Competencies.


Meaningful collaboration skills

Regeneration is a collaborative effort that requires the participation of diverse stakeholders, including businesses, government, civil society, and communities. Collaboration skills enable individuals and organisations to work effectively in teams, build partnerships, and foster cooperation towards common sustainability goals.


Collaboration encourages people to think outside the box and develop innovative solutions. It also helps build team members’ trust and promotes an organisation’s sense of community.

Additionally, collaboration helps develop problem-solving skills, communication skills, and creativity – all essential abilities in today’s increasingly competitive workforce.

Collaborative thinking encourages teams to collaborate to develop creative solutions to complex problems. It also helps employees build relationships and learn from each other’s experiences.


Collaboration thinking is vital in assisting businesses to succeed in the modern age by allowing them to tap into the collective knowledge of their team members and create innovative products and services for their customers.


Productive creativity skills

Creativity is crucial not just in the workplace but also in our everyday lives. It helps us express ourselves better, develop our unique thinking style and create meaningful relationships with others.


By being creative, we can also find new ways to solve problems or create something out of nothing. With creativity, we can explore new possibilities for learning and growth that will benefit us personally and professionally in the long run.


Creative thinking enables businesses to stay ahead of their competition by creating unique and innovative solutions to help them succeed in the market.


It also encourages employees to think outside the box and find new solutions. By fostering creativity in the workplace, businesses can create a culture that promotes innovation and encourages employees to develop their skills.


Deep critical thinking skills

Regeneration requires a critical assessment of current systems and practices, identifying areas where change is needed. Critical thinking skills enable individuals and organisations to evaluate complex information, analyse problems, and develop innovative solutions that promote sustainability and regeneration.


Understanding why critical thinking is so vital in today’s world is essential. In a rapidly changing environment, it helps us to stay ahead of the curve by understanding complex situations quickly and accurately.


It also helps us think creatively and develop innovative solutions to challenging problems. Furthermore, it enables us to evaluate different perspectives on any given issue and make informed decisions based on facts rather than emotions or preconceived notions.

Critical thinking is one of today’s most essential skills and competencies for business success. It allows companies to make informed decisions based on data and evidence rather than relying solely on intuition.


Critical thinking helps businesses identify problems before they arise and develop solutions that will help them stay ahead of their competition. It also allows employees to think through complex issues and develop innovative solutions to assist the business in reaching its goals.


In short, critical thinking is essential for any business to be successful in the 21st century.


Engaging civic and cultural skills

Regeneration requires a sense of citizenship that goes beyond individual interests and considers the broader social and environmental impact of our actions. Citizenship skills enable individuals and organisations to recognise their responsibility towards the planet and society, promoting sustainable and regenerative practices that benefit everyone.


In today’s world, businesses need to understand the importance of civic and cultural thinking to succeed. The 5Cs of 21st Century Skills & Competencies provide a framework for understanding how civic and cultural thinking can help businesses to make decisions that are more informed and better suited to their customer base.


Civic and cultural thinking helps companies understand their target audience’s values, beliefs, customs, and norms, enabling them to create products or services tailored to their needs.


It also helps them make more effective marketing strategies by providing insights into how customers think about specific topics or issues.


By developing an understanding of civic and cultural thinking, businesses can ensure they are making decisions informed by the needs of their customers and stakeholders.

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