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The Future is Regenerative

For the past decades, companies with an eye on becoming sustainable have focused on doing less harm, making incremental changes and polluting less. It’s time for companies to focus on doing good and having a positive impact on the environment and society. In order to reverse climate change and promote human rights, we need to make our businesses and our lives more regenerative.

What is a Regenerative Business? 

At its core, a regenerative business restores and replenishes what it has used or discarded. According to Amy Hall of EILEEN FISHER who has developed regenerative systems for the clothing company, “regenerative” refers to business that approaches its work in an “additive and holistic manner. A regenerative business looks at its inputs and outputs as a living system.” Regenerative businesses have a commitment to both social and environmental regeneration.

Amy Hall has developed key questions for business about the path towards more regenerative operations:

  1. Does it use renewable energy and even better does it produce more energy than it needs? (Is it resource positive?)
  2. Does it capture and reuse its own waste?
  3. Does it pay a living wage to its direct employees and supply chain in order for everyone to thrive?
  4. Does it promote employee well-being for personal renewal?

Like the beehive, regenerative systems thrive on connectivity and balance. They adapt and respond to change. Regenerative businesses create systems which generate co-benefits for stakeholders.  

Meaningful Business 100 provides examples of businesses with regenerative practices:

Chobani uses100 percent renewable energy and repurposes their waste (whey) in a regenerative manner. This US-based yogurt company produces three cups of whey for every cup of yogurt it sells. Chobani recycles the whey in several ways: it uses it as a renewable source of animal feed and applies it to the land as fertilizer which recharges the soil. In addition, they commit to animal health. The company has a profit-sharing program for its employees. Founded by Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani is looking at ways to enhance the food system as a whole, including dairy farming and its supply chain.    

TerraCycle: CEO and founder Tom Szaky wants to eliminate the idea of waste. His company works with companies such as Colgate, Walkers, and Coca-Cola to repurpose waste. The company operates national platforms or systems to process and repurpose waste. Known as the “Google of garbage”, TerraCycle launched Loop, a well-designed metal container to deliver ice cream, juice and other products to consumers. The containers are then picked up and cleaned and re-used to deliver goods in France, the US and the UK. Loop is also coming to Canada, Japan and Australia.

Plastic Bank:  Founded by David Katz, The Plastic Bank reprocesses materials for reintroduction into the global supply chain by creating an eco-system that empowers marginalized people. The Plastic Bank works in coastal communities in countries like Haiti, Indonesia, and the Philippines to remove plastic from the ocean. People collect plastic and bring it to recycling centers where they get tokens to purchase food and schooling. Using blockchain, The Plastic Bank has developed Social Plastic (R) Partnerships to create markets for “ethical plastic materials” with companies such as IBM, Aldi, SC Johnson and Henkle.

These companies provide examples of how we can revitalize and regenerate systems to address global challenges and opportunities. We need more businesses to shift from an extractive model of “making and taking” to one of regenerating and restoring to create new systems of generating social value.


Deborah Leipziger

Deborah Leipziger

She is Consultant on Social Innovation, Sustainability, and Human Rights, Lecturer, Senior Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation, Babson College, USA, Founder, The Lexicon of Change

Owned by: Institute of Directors, India

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    Deborah Leipziger

    Author. Advisor. Sustainability Expert. Lecturer

    Author, Consultant on Social Innovation, Sustainability, and Human Rights, Lecturer, Senior Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation, Babson College, USA, Founder, The Lexicon of Change

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