Depart Reevaluating Economics

Transition to Regenerative Economies

A regen­er­a­tive econ­o­my con­sti­tutes a bold move in the direc­tion of estab­lish­ing a health­i­er society.

“It’s all a ques­tion of sto­ry. We are in trou­ble now because we don’t have a good sto­ry. We are in between sto­ries. The old sto­ry, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it, is no longer effec­tive.” — Thomas Berry

Space­ship Earth geo­des­ic sphere, Ben­jamin Suter, 2018

Eco-the­olo­gian Thomas Berry devel­oped a world­view that sees humans inte­grat­ed with­in a cos­mic cel­e­bra­tion of the uni­verse. With a depar­ture from an old world­view that places humans as sep­a­rate from nature, we can begin to real­ize how the uni­ver­sal prin­ci­ples the cos­mos employs to build sta­ble, healthy, and sus­tain­able sys­tems can, and must, be used as a mod­el for eco­nom­ic-sys­tem design. The idea that an eco­nom­ic sys­tem can work in har­mo­ny with our solar sys­tem is as far out as it is close to home.

Berry’s work has been brought into eco­nom­ic dis­cus­sion by John Fuller­ton, founder and pres­i­dent of Cap­i­tal Insti­tute. Fullerton’s orga­ni­za­tion is self-described as “a col­lab­o­ra­tive work­ing to illu­mi­nate how our econ­o­my and finan­cial sys­tem can oper­ate to pro­mote a more just, regen­er­a­tive, and thus sus­tain­able way of liv­ing on this earth.”5 Com­pa­nies that make invest­ments in mod­els of coop­er­a­tion and col­lec­tive uplift can help to do their part to close the gaps in wealth dis­par­i­ty. This kind of cor­rec­tive mea­sure will then gen­er­ate fur­ther ben­e­fits for improved eco­nom­ic dynamics.

A regen­er­a­tive econ­o­my hon­ors its place among peo­ple and envi­ron­ment. It oper­ates to nur­ture healthy, sta­ble com­mu­ni­ties, and biore­gions. Shar­ing his ideas in Fast Com­pa­ny, Fuller­ton explains the eight ele­ments to what he calls Regen­er­a­tive Cap­i­tal­ism.6

Light instal­la­tion in a garage, Mar­ius Masalar, 2016

To para­phrase: Right Rela­tion­ship speaks to respect­ing how the econ­o­my is embed­ded in human cul­ture and the ecos­phere, and that each of these rela­tion­ships must be nur­tured. Entre­pre­neuri­al­ism, as a prin­ci­ple for regen­er­a­tive eco­nom­ics, draws on the innate abil­i­ty of human beings to inno­vate and “cre­ate anew” across all sec­tors of soci­ety. Wealth Viewed Holis­ti­cal­ly defines true wealth in terms of the well-being of the “whole” which can be achieved through har­mo­niz­ing the mul­ti­ple forms of capital—social, eco­log­i­cal, man­u­fac­tured, and finan­cial. Shared Pros­per­i­ty refers to how wealth can be equi­tably dis­trib­uted in the con­text of an expand­ed view of true wealth. Real Econ­o­my Cir­cu­lar­i­ty pro­motes a ver­sion of the econ­o­my that con­tin­u­al­ly strives to rad­i­cal­ly min­i­mize the amount of ener­gy, mate­r­i­al, and resources used through­out all phas­es of the pro­duc­tion cycle. “Edge Effect” Abun­dance explains how cre­ative and diverse col­lab­o­ra­tions increase the pos­si­bil­i­ty for val­ue-adding wealth to emerge through rela­tion­ships and exchanges. Resilien­cy refers to how a whole system’s adapt­abil­i­ty to change devel­ops over long-term learn­ing and is val­ued more high­ly than our cur­rent brit­tle con­cen­tra­tions of pow­er. And last­ly, a regen­er­a­tive econ­o­my Hon­ors Place in its abil­i­ty to nur­ture healthy, sta­ble com­mu­ni­ties and biore­gions in phys­i­cal and vir­tu­al space.7

Alter­na­tive eco­nom­ic pri­or­i­ties guid­ing future invest­ment can be found in B Cor­po­ra­tions, the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion title for com­pa­nies that keep eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions in mind—in terms of qual­i­ty of life for work­ers, impact on local com­mu­ni­ties, and the pro­tec­tion of the environment—while still main­tain­ing their busi­ness. This com­mu­ni­ty of com­pa­nies observes strict guide­lines that ensure fair and just busi­ness prac­tices, and that strive to bal­ance social respon­si­bil­i­ty and trans­paren­cy with the demands of their share­hold­ers. The core mes­sage of the B Corp Dec­la­ra­tion of Inter­de­pen­dence is:

“That we must be the change we seek in the world. That all busi­ness ought to be con­duct­ed as if peo­ple and place mat­tered. That, through their prod­ucts, prac­tices, and prof­its, busi­ness­es should aspire to do no harm and ben­e­fit all. To do so requires that we act with the under­stand­ing that we are each depen­dent upon anoth­er and thus respon­si­ble for each oth­er and future gen­er­a­tions.”8

Accord­ing to John Fuller­ton, oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to imbue cap­i­tal with eth­i­cal deci­sion-mak­ing appear through social finance, impact invest­ing, local-liv­ing economies, and crowd-fund­ing, as well as a num­ber of ini­tia­tives like B Team and Break­through Capitalism.

The rea­son for draw­ing atten­tion to the prin­ci­ples of these com­pa­nies is to illus­trate how the depar­ture from our cur­rent eco­nom­ic sys­tem is already under­way. The empha­sis on change reminds us that the dif­fi­cul­ty with embrac­ing change has to do with how deeply root­ed sys­temic issues become over time. The more time and rep­e­ti­tion our species spends on con­tin­u­ing pat­terns of pro­duc­tion that have cat­a­stroph­ic con­se­quences, the more intran­si­gent peo­ple con­tribut­ing to these prob­lems can feel, despite what­ev­er evi­dence sug­gests the need to shift course. Change doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly ever get eas­i­er, though. It remains its own unique and evolv­ing chal­lenge. Yet, as the peo­ple exchang­ing what we val­ue with­in eco­nom­ic sys­tems, we can cer­tain­ly voice our pri­or­i­ties to a much more mean­ing­ful effect.

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