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How to Create a Regenerative Business

12 min read

May 18, 2023

As a regenerative business, engaging your staff, elevating your brand and reputation, increasing referrals, improving service delivery, and boosting customer satisfaction will be a natural consequence.



Regenerative business is a concept and approach to business that goes beyond sustainability and aims to create positive impacts on the environment, society, and the economy. It focuses on restoring, renewing, and revitalizing natural and social systems while generating long-term value for all stakeholders involved.


The term “regenerative” is derived from the word “regeneration,” which means the process of renewal, growth, and restoration. In the context of business, regenerative practices seek to create thriving ecosystems, resilient communities, and a healthier planet whilst making a profit.


Here are some key principles and characteristics of regenerative business:


Systems Thinking: Regenerative businesses view themselves as part of a larger interconnected system. They consider the complex relationships between social, ecological, and economic factors and aim to design their operations in a way that enhances the overall well-being of the system.


Holistic Approach:

Regenerative businesses take a holistic approach to value creation. They consider multiple forms of capital, including financial, natural, social, and human capital, and strive to enhance and replenish these forms of capital over time.


Positive Impact:

Regenerative businesses aim to create positive impacts rather than just minimizing negative ones. They actively seek opportunities to improve environmental and social conditions, such as reducing waste, conserving resources, fostering social equity, and supporting local communities.


Circular Economy:

Regenerative businesses embrace the principles of a circular economy, which emphasizes minimizing waste and maximizing the use of resources. They design products and services with a focus on durability, repairability, recyclability, and reuse, thus reducing the need for new resource extraction.


Stakeholder Engagement:

Regenerative businesses recognize the importance of engaging with and including all stakeholders in their decision-making processes. This includes employees, customers, suppliers, local communities, and even future generations. By considering diverse perspectives, they aim to create shared value and foster collaboration.


Adaptive and Resilient:

Regenerative businesses understand the need to adapt and evolve in response to changing conditions. They build resilience into their operations and supply chains, considering factors such as climate change, social dynamics, and technological advancements.


Learning and Innovation:

Regenerative businesses foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation. They embrace new ideas, technologies, and approaches that can help them improve their regenerative practices and create even greater positive impact.

Overall, regenerative business aims to shift the focus from simply reducing harm to actively restoring and regenerating the environment and society. By embracing these principles, businesses can contribute to a more sustainable, inclusive, and thriving future.


Going beyond sustainability

Many companies are now looking to adopt more sustainable business practices including adopting the circular economy principles aimed at reducing waste by making it recyclable, reusable or compostable and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and changing to renewable energy such as solar, wind and wave. Doing more with less, polluting less, and generally trying not destroy the biosphere and the essential living systems of the planet that we depend on for our long-term survival.


But this isn’t enough as the global population is increasing, at least for now, people and are becoming wealthier, meaning more people will want to buy, use and throw away more. We already have global warming and our finite resources are already running out. In his podcast Navi Radjou Beyond Sustainability: The Regenerative Business describes how General Motors and others are redefining their sustainability goals.


And our present state of affairs is also not a single-issue problem; we have increasing levels of inequality and metal health issues too, as well as the aforementioned future challenges.

Business needs to be more than sustainable, it needs to be regenerative, giving back at least 10 times what it takes or consumes across all areas it impacts; improving the wellbeing of people by 10, families and communities by 10, society and the planet by 10 too.


To achieve this, the mind-set of business must move from the short-term profit maximisation view of business to long term value creation across all areas of that a business impacts.


The story of the regenerative business.

During the industrial revolution of the 20th century, only the bottom line mattered, and that was profit. Companies did all they could to maximise profit and had that been for the long term, say 5, 10, 20, 30 or 50 years hence, that would have been ok, but unfortunately the focus was always on the next 3 months, the next quatre.


And so costs had to be minimised, corners got cut, staff, who were seen as a cost, were minimised and maximised in equal measure; minimum investment, maximum utilisation. Investments in research and development cut, product innovation, staff pay and training but with a focus on profits, the bosses did well, at least in the short term before they moved on to the next company.


Loyalty was low, antagonism was high, legendary between the bosses and the workers. Unions, strikes, job losses, all par for the course. It didn’t help that a very respected American economist by the name of Milton Friedman said, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits”. When he said that, his intentions were no doubt good. But it led to the exploitation of people and resources for profit.

A second spanner was thrown in the works when Frederick Winslow Taylor, who died in 1915, came up with Scientific Management. Known as Taylorism, it seeks to minimise waste and maximise efficiency. Coming as it did at the start of the industrial revolution, with Ford and others creating mass market production, work was reduced down to the simplest tasks, the most mundane and repetitive of tasks. Workers didn’t need to think, just do as they were told. The bosses did the thinking.


So workers were just seen as part of a bigger machine, just cogs and gears in a machine. The 1936 film Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin depicts the plight of the working classes at the hands of the industrial revolution as a reminder the issue was well documented even back then.

The third spanner came in the form of B F Skinner, who popularised Behaviourism, meaning that we have no free will, that we all just react to events around us. And so it followed that carrots and sticks were the best way to control and motivate the workers.

And these three ideas permeated management thinking throughout the 20th century. New societal responsibility

A regenerative business recognises its new critical role in societal leadership and moves the world away from being too transactional to a more relational and fair society. And the good news is that we are more motivated by good relationships and doing good than acquiring more stuff. Ironically, the regenerative business generates higher revenues, margins and profits because of this. Happiness is a great motivator.


Delivering reduced inequality

A rising tide lifts all boats. The industrial revolution has delivered increased living standards for millions of people, but the unequal distribution of wealth is causing resentment and unhappiness. Growth has come at the expense of equality. This is a pattern that repeats itself throughout history, that leads to decline and failure, but now the impact is global and avoidable. This inequality actually lowers business productivity and profitability. It’s in everyone’s interest to lower the current levels of inequality.


Avoid environmental collapse

Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible. As the world becomes wealthier and as the global population continues to expand, the exponential extraction and pollution of the planet will quickly deplete us of our natural resources. Most likely, before this happens, a chain reaction of weather events will create an environmental collapse quickly followed by economic and societal collapse leading to civil unrest and even wars. This is an issue of over production and consumption. Business leaders are in the best position to avert this issue before a tipping point is reached and events spiral out of control.


Being sustainable is not enough

The planet today is 1.1C above pre-industrial levels. At today’s temperature the ice caps are melting causing sea levels to rise, the soil is drying out causing more and more trees to die out, forest fires start more easily, storms are more frequent, droughts increase, deserts expand, there are more health risks, increased poverty and people are displaced. We need to become NET regenerative, replacing by a factor of ten the damage we do to the planet.


Make work more rewarding.

Our transactional way of living and working is creating mental health issues. One in four people experience mental issues each year in the UK. Globally only 20% are engaged at work, just 32% are thriving, 43% are stressed at work, 24% experience a lot of anger and 25% a lot of sadness. Employee engagement is critical to business success.


We need to take the long view. Large corporations are focussed on short-term profit maximisation. If they don’t maximise their short-term profits, CEOs lose their jobs, or they get taken over by another company who promises to do better. Small and medium-sized companies with 1 to 1000 staff can take the long view, they are passionate about change and making a difference and will benefit more quickly by developing a regenerative business mindset and way of working.


There are numerous justifications for hitting the ‘reset’ button on how businesses operated in the past. By doing so, we can enhance profitability, create a more sustainable planet, and foster a better world for all.


As a regenerative business, engaging your staff, elevating your brand and reputation, increasing referrals, improving service delivery, and boosting customer satisfaction will be a natural consequence. Additionally, while enjoying greater profits, you’ll be aware that you’re contributing to the planet’s regeneration, strengthening families and communities, and fostering a more resilient society.


Five strategies for building a regenerative business


Set ambitious regenerative goals

Regenerative businesses set ambitious, measurable goals to reduce their environmental impact, such as reducing energy use, water consumption, and waste. set targets to promote social impact, such as promoting diversity and inclusion, investing in employee well-being, and supporting local communities.


Embrace the circular economy

The circular economy is a regenerative system where products and materials are kept in use for as long as possible, reducing waste and promoting resource efficiency. ‘In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste being produced in the first place.’ Ellen Macarthur. Sustainable businesses adopt circular economy principles, such as designing products for longevity, using recycled materials, and promoting reuse and repair.


Foster sustainable supply chains

Sustainable businesses work with suppliers who share their commitment to sustainability, ensuring that their products and services are produced with responsible practices. They also ensure that their supply chain is transparent, traceable, and supports fair labour practices and human rights.


Prioritise employee engagement

Sustainable businesses prioritise employee engagement, ensuring that their staff are aligned with their sustainability goals, and provide them with opportunities for professional development and career growth. They also prioritise employee well-being, ensuring that their staff has access to health and wellness programs.


Engage with stakeholders

Sustainable businesses engage with their stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, investors, and local communities, to understand their perspectives and involve them in decision-making. They also report on their sustainability progress transparently, holding themselves accountable to their stakeholders.


Exploring the power of regenerative business models


Regenerative business models are gaining attention as a powerful approach to sustainable business. Instead of simply minimising harm, regenerative models aim to improve natural systems and resources, positively impacting the environment and society.


These models prioritise long-term sustainability over short-term profit, seeking to create a flourishing future for all. By integrating regenerative practices into their operations, businesses can contribute to the regeneration of ecosystems and communities while building resilience and enhancing their success. The power of regenerative business models lies in their ability to simultaneously generate economic, social, and environmental benefits, creating a triple bottom line of prosperity. The power of regenerative business models lies in their ability to simultaneously generate economic, social, and environmental benefits, creating a triple bottom line of prosperity.


The principles of regenerative design are the interconnectedness of all living systems and seek to create products, services, and techniques that are restorative, regenerative, and contribute to the health of ecosystems and communities.


Sustainable and regenerative business models

Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) – PaaS models seek to create value by providing customers access to products and services rather than ownership. This can lead to more sustainable consumption patterns, reduced waste, and increased resource efficiency.


Collaborative Consumption – Collaborative consumption models seek to facilitate sharing and collaboration between individuals and communities, reducing the need for new products and are services and promoting more efficient use of resources.


Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) – C2C models seek to create closed-loop systems where products and materials continually reused and recycled, promoting resource efficiency, waste reduction, and environmental sustainability.


B-Corporation – B-Corps are businesses certified by the non-profit B Lab as meeting rigorous social and environmental performance standards, accountability, and transparency.


Social Enterprise -Social enterprises prioritise social and environmental impact over financial returns. They typically reinvest profits into their social or environmental mission rather than distributing them to shareholders.


Sustainable business models are becoming increasingly important in today’s world. By prioritising long-term sustainability and social responsibility, these models not only contribute to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, but also generate economic benefits. Companies that embrace sustainable business practices are more likely to attract and retain customers, employees, and investors who share their values, while also building resilience and future-proofing their operations. As we move towards a more sustainable and equitable future, sustainable business models will play a vital role in creating positive impact for all.


The Power of Regeneration: designing cultures for positive change


The idea that intentional design can be a powerful tool for creating a positive impact is particularly relevant today, where we face numerous environmental and social challenges. By designing our systems and cultures with regeneration in mind, we can create a world that is not only sustainable but also just and equitable. Through sustainable business practices, regenerative agriculture, and other initiatives, we can work towards restoring the health of the planet and building resilient communities. The power of regeneration lies in our ability to imagine and create a better world that prioritises the well-being of all beings and systems.


This means that we can use design to reduce our negative impact on the environment and actively restore and regenerate ecosystems and communities.

For example, in architecture, we can design buildings that use renewable energy sources, capture and reuse rainwater, and incorporate green spaces for biodiversity.

In urban planning, we can create walkable cities with efficient public transportation systems, affordable housing, and access to green spaces.


Finally, in product design, we can design products made from sustainable materials that are easy to repair, recycle and have a long lifespan.


By intentionally designing our systems and cultures, we can create a world where we meet our basic needs and thrive in harmony with our environment. Of course, it requires a shift in mindset from one that values short-term profit and convenience to long-term sustainability and regeneration. But with intentional design, we can create a positive impact created with regenerative business execution.


Regenerative Business: creating value for people and the planet


Rem5 business looks after all areas of life, business, well-being, planet, family/community, and society; less unequal, less destructive, less extractive, kinder, regenerative and profitable.


At the core REM5 Business Improvement Programme | Awardaroo! is a fundamental tension between the economy, the environment, and family breakdown resulting in a shrinking population. Unfortunately, these three forces are not aligned and do not complement each other, thus posing a significant threat to the planet and its inhabitants. Unless these forces are brought into balance, the threat will persist.


Regenerative business is a new approach to conducting business that seeks to create value for both people and the planet. It goes beyond the traditional focus on profitability and growth and places equal importance on social and environmental impact. The goal of regenerative business is to impact society and the environment while generating profits positively.


Regenerative businesses prioritise sustainability, innovation, and collaboration. They seek to create products and services that are environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable. They also prioritise the well-being of their employees, customers, and communities.


Creating value that benefits both people and the planet goes beyond traditional profit-oriented models and instead prioritises environmental and social impact. REM business aims to create value that helps people and the earth.


This involves developing products, services, and processes that positively impact society and the environment. By prioritising sustainability and responsible business practices, REM businesses strive to minimise their environmental footprint while contributing to social and economic development. The goal is a win-win scenario where people and the planet benefit from the business’s activities. As a result, the regenerative company has the potential for a positive impact.


Regenerating the workforce: aligning green skills and soft skills for positive change


Regenerating the workforce involves aligning green skills and soft skills for positive change. Green skills are the technical skills and knowledge required to work in environmentally-focused industries. In contrast, soft skills refer to the interpersonal and communication skills necessary for success in any workplace.


In 20th-century behaviour, soft skills are not included in business, economics or politics. An environmental, societal, and economic crisis is happening because we are too transactional. We have lost sight of what matters.


Developing strong soft skills can be just as important as acquiring technical or hard skills in today’s workplace. These skills can help individuals to build successful careers, build effective teams, and contribute positively to their organisations and communities.

By aligning green skills and soft skills, we can create a workforce that is knowledgeable about environmental issues and capable of communicating and collaborating effectively to drive positive change. This approach can help organisations achieve their sustainability goals while fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration.


To regenerate the workforce, organisations can invest in training and development programs focusing on technical and soft skills. This will enable employees to develop a comprehensive understanding of environmental issues and the ability to work effectively with others to address them.


Green skills and business skills need to be one of the same. However, having green skills alone is not enough. A successful business also needs strong business skills, such as financial management, marketing, and strategic planning, to operate effectively and remain profitable. Therefore, combining green skills with business skills can be a winning combination, as it allows businesses to not only operate sustainably but also to be successful in the long term.


Healthier profits and planets go hand in hand. Businesses can create long-term value for their bottom line and the earth by prioritising sustainability and environmental responsibility. Sustainable practices can help companies to reduce their environmental impact, increase efficiency, and build a loyal customer base that values sustainability and ethical rules. This, in turn, can lead to increased profits in the long run.

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