Regenerative Agriculture Industry Map

Welcome to the first graphical map of the Regenerative Agriculture Industry.

Companies, investors, organizations, and farms are included in this map based on the following criteria:

  1. They explicitly use the term “Regenerative Agriculture” or “Regenerative Farming” in public-facing communications.
  2. Or they invest financial capital into an entity meeting Criteria 1.

Hear Ethan & Koen discuss the map in the December ‘Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Podcast!

Why this criteria?

As I’ve described elsewhere, there are multiple divergent meanings of “Regenerative Agriculture” in use today. Instead of subjectively applying any particular definition, I’ve chosen to start with a simple objective approach: Who is using the term?

While this may seem overly simplistic, it turns out that even using the term is a non-trivial step for most organizations. It implies, at least, that the decision-makers have explored the definitional landscape and decided that something about “regeneration” is important enough to publicly align with and proclaim.

I recognize that this is a lowest-common-denominator approach, and invites onto this map entities whose usage of the term I disagree with — even entities whose approach I believe will degrade and banalize the deeper meaning of the term. Over time I will add more layers of analysis to discern between the different lineages and levels of regenerative agriculture that are sourcing each entity’s usage.

When I co-organized the Carbon Farming Course: Workshops in Regenerative Agriculture in 2009 and 2012, only a few small groups of organizations were using the term “Regenerative Agriculture”. Through a combination of pathways, these groups have exponentially grown the number of entities and financial scale of the industry. Through the uptake by large CPG companies starting in 2016, it’s likely that the annual revenue to companies that are explicitly promoting regenerative agriculture is greater than $50 billion.

This is a Draft

Version 1.0 is a draft. There are very likely mistakes. Please help me correct them. If the “usage year” listed for your organization is incorrect, I will happily change it — please just send me a link to the date of a public record where you use the term “Regenerative Agriculture”. If your estimated financial scale is incorrect, please tell me (with as much precision as you’d like to be public) what it should be. Thank you!

Entity Types

Organizations are grouped in five categories: 

  • Investment: Primarily investment managers and funds, though a few family offices are included.
  • Farm: Includes farms that develop and market their own products. See additional note about Farms below.
  • Service Organization: Educators, consultants, research organizations, agricultural equipment and product manufacturers, land managers not tied to a single farm, media producers, for-profit membership organizations, ecosystem platforms, and other types of organizations.
  • CPG: Consumer Packaged Goods manufacturers, primarily food and beverage, but including some health and beauty products. Retailers of Consumer Packaged Goods are included here, along with fashion and clothing manufacturers.
  • Non-Profit: A diversity of not-for-profit organizations, from education to research to events convening to advocacy.

There is significant overlap in the functional work of entities in the “Service Organization” and “Non-Profit” categories, with the primary division being the choice of legal organizational structure.

Strongly under-represented in Version 1.0 of the Map are farms. The number of farms that are beginning to use the term ‘regenerative’ is multiplying exponentially. Many farms that have been using the principles of Holistic Management, Biodynamics, Permaculture, or Organic Agriculture are now saying, “we have been regenerative for a long time.” Combine that with a flood of larger US and Australian farms that are growing conventionally while adopting some form of regenerative agriculture principles, and this is a challenging category to keep up with. This is compounded by the fact that a much smaller proportion of farms maintain up-to-date websites — which makes pinpointing the year they started using the term difficult.

In summary, the distinction that I’ve chosen for version 1.0 of the Map, “Explicitly using the term “regenerative agriculture” in public-facing communications” is hard to track for farms. And, I would like to do a better job in the next version of this map recording this quickly-changing farm. I’ll keep adding farms to the list, and welcome any contributions from the wider community.

Estimated Financial Scale

Organizations are loosely clumped into one of 4 financial scale categories, based primarily on publicly available information. For most entities on the map the estimated financial scale refers to annual revenue, with the exception of Investment organizations where it refers to Assets Under Management (AUM).

One current issue with the map is that the estimated financial scale grouping is based on relatively current information (from the last 1–5 years), and does necessarily accurately depict the financial scale of the organizations at the time when they started using the term “Regenerative Agriculture.” I welcome any suggestions on a graphically elegant way to depict this complexity.

Note about Earliest Usages

This first written record of the term “Regenerative Agriculture” was in 1979 by Medard Gabel (thanks to Luke Smith of Terra Genesis for research on this). Soon afterwards (in 1983), Robert Rodale of the Rodale Institute began using the term, and led the creation of the “Regenerative Agriculture Association” sometime in the 1980s. They published at least one book that I have seen (“Booker T. Whatley’s Handbook on How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres”), and began promoting early ideas about regeneration alongside their work on organic farming.

Sometime After Robert Rodale’s unexpected death in 1990, the Rodale Institute dropped the term, focusing on promoting Organic Agriculture for more than 20 years. After the permaculture community and several other organizations (especially Darren Doherty of Regrarians, Terra Genesis International, Armonia LLC, and Biological Capital) started using “Regenerative Agriculture” between 2009–2013, the Rodale Institute reclaimed the term (2014) in a modified usage that they continue today: “Regenerative Organic”.

Future Versions

There are two primary pathways along which I plan to develop I plan develop this map.

  1. Expansion. As noted, there are a lot of farms out there using the term that are not yet on this map. Additionally, this map is heavily United States-centric, and should definitely be expanded to better represent the work happening in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
  2. Depth. I will add layers of detail and complexity over time. I’ll start with characterizing the “Lineages” from which each entity is sourcing their use of “Regenerative Agriculture”. Next I will characterize the Level of Regenerative Agriculture that each entity is working from, through a combination of supported self-reporting and my subjective assessments. Then I will start to develop more detailed attributes for the different entities, including the agricultural practices, business models, and metrics utilized by each. Eventually these attributes will include locations, climate zones, and crops produced.

If you would like to contribute to the development of either pathway, please email me to discuss: e@ethansoloviev.com.

Final Questions

Will the exponential growth trend of the last decade continue? How many entities using the term “Regenerative Agriculture” will it take to reverse climate change? What would success look like for the growth of this industry? 

Will your company be the next added to the map?

Lineages of Regenerative Agriculture (Short Version)

Lineages of Regenerative Agriculture

(Note: I’m writing a more complete and expanded version of this article, including graphics and structured analyses of these lineages. Sign up for my mailing list if you want to read the finished version.)

There are 5 primary intellectual and practical Lineages of people who are using the term”Regenerative Agriculture”.

Each Lineage has a different definition, farming philosophy, and approach to growing their community. In the last year, one of them is quickly (but quietly) out-growing the others.

Here are the Five Lineages of Regenerative Agriculture:

1. Rodale Organic

Basic organic agriculture practices promoted by Rodale since the 1970s, re-dubbed “Regenerative Organic” in recent years and requiring the tenets of organic agriculture as a baseline. The focus is soil. CPG brands have been strongly promoting this lineage, most notably through the Regenerative Organic Certification.

This lineage seems to think that “regeneration” is a combination of 40-year-tested conversation farming practices – cover cropping, crop rotation, compost, low- or no-till. These are great practices for reducing erosion, inputs and (if practiced with great skill) beginning to increase soil carbon. However, I do not think there is any such thing as a “Regenerative Agriculture Practice” – only systemic outcomes can confirm that a regeneration is taking place.

2. Permaculture/Regrarians

Permaculture as a global movement loves the IDEA of regenerative agriculture, but for the most part fails to achieve significant levels of agricultural production. Along with a strong focus on small-scale design and unproven beliefs about reversing climate change, this lineage of Regenerative Agriculture tends towards ideals from the human potential movement, focusing on how to create “thriving” and “abundance” for all.

Regrarians, emerging from but transcending the scale and idealism of permaculture, has for decades integrated Holistic Management, Keyline, and ecological design processes at farm-scale around the world. In my opinion some of the best regenerative agriculture farm design comes from this lineage – they effectively integrate agroforestry, comprehensive water-planning, soil-building, and holistic livestock management while building farmer capacity and economic viability.

3. Holistic Management

Promoted by both the Savory Institute and Holistic Management International, focusing on a comprehensive decision-making framework designed for animal-centric ecosystem regeneration.

In 2018 Savory released their Land to Market Ecological Outcome Verification system, with backing of some significant food and fashion brands. This is the best standard on the market, in large part because it is outcomes-based (instead of practice-based) and requires a positive trend-line for ecosystem improvements.

4. Regenerative Paradigm

Over 50 years ago, the term ‘Regenerative’ was developed by Charles Krone to describe a radically different paradigm of approaching human and systems development. Guided by the Carol Sanford Institute, a small but effective community of practice including Regenesis, Terra Genesis International, Regen.Network and others has applied the paradigm to Business, Design, Planning, Education, and Agriculture.

Many people who begin their journey in the ‘Permaculture’ lineage mentioned above, find their way to here. The most complete explanation (so far!) of farming from the perspective of this lineage is freely available in the paper ‘Levels of Regenerative Agriculture‘.

5. Soil Profits / No-Till / NRCS

Typified and led by Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, and others, this lineage draws practices and inspiration from other Lineages but appeals strongly to conventional farmers by eschewing the dogmas of organic agriculture and focusing on bottom line profits through increased soil health.

This final Lineage is the one that I see quietly experiencing exponential growth – dominating the Regenerative Agriculture mentions in middle-America newspapers (which I track, somewhat obsessively, in the monthly Regeneration Newsroom) and actually being adopted by mainstream conventional farmers.

By bypassing prejudices against ‘organic’, and allowing farmers to still use synthetic inputs, this lineage is received openly enough to then show the economic arguments for decreasing inputs and improving soil through good crop rotation, no-till, and grazing practices.

The narrative that something as effective and sexy as “Regenerative Agriculture” is available  to conventional farmers is a big deal. While I think this lineage misses opportunities through its incompleteness and dis-integrative approach, I believe it is incredibly important for the world to watch and support its growth and evolution.

Conclusion

My goal in writing up these lineages is to help discern and distinguish the different meanings and philosophies at play when someone says “Regenerative Agriculture”.

There is a significant “Regenerative Hype” sweeping into public consciousness, primarily through the natural products industry, but also pushed by recent climate change reports and global political dialogue.

More and more organizations, individuals, and businesses will start to claim that what they are doing is “regenerative”, without changing how they are thinking or even what they are doing. I think that understanding what lineage they are speaking from will help everyone to discuss, debate, and further develop the actual effects of work in this realm – there is great potential in Regenerative Agriculture, and we are not anywhere close to achieving it.

Financing Regenerative Agriculture

Financing Regenerative Agriculture

Gary Paul Nabhan invited me to keynote the annual Food & Finance Forum in Arizona. I took the opportunity to juxtapose different Levels of Regenerative Agriculture with the most-used financing strategies currently available. The result? See for yourself below:

As I say around half an hour in, send me an email if you want to read the full Levels of Regenerative Agriculture white paper.

Here’s a little preview of the 5 paths to financing agriculture that I discuss in the talk. More details starting around 33:30 in the talk.

Agriculture Financing Paths

The Q&A starts at 57:26 – some great questions from the audience. I discuss the problems of ranking & rating systems, how to face the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, and why we can’t just “go back” to ancient sustainable agriculture.

Got more questions on this talk? Let me know in the comments below.

Regenerative Agriculture Continuum

I am often asked, “What IS Regenerative Agriculture?” “Can you just define it quickly and simply for me?”

Perennial Agriculture Landscape

The best answer I can give is, “No.” Regenerative Agriculture is neither quick nor simple.

Regenerative Agriculture can not, and should not, be defined. As we wrote in Levels of Regenerative Agriculture,

‘Define’ literally means, “bring to an end.’ It comes from the Latin verb, definire, composed of de- ‘completely’ + finire ‘to bound, limit,’ from finis, ‘boundary, end.’ This is the opposite of regeneration.

Confining the subject to a single “ending or limit’ would be antithetical to the processes that our discipline seeks to bring into agriculture.

Insisting on a single definition would put a wall around our agricultural landscapes, separating them from the natural world.

Instead of defining Regenerative Agriculture, I would like to offer you a lens through which to explore and evolve your understanding. You can see this lens as a prism: each time light passes through it you can see new colors, new patterns, and new ways to approach the subject.

Prism - A Lens of Regeneration
Prism – Wikimedia

This prism takes the shape of a continuum.

On one end is “degenerative” – those processes, practices and protocols that decrease the health and wellbeing of a place, person or entity. Ecological and social degradation results from fragmentation, over-simplification, homogeneity, and destructive reactivity. There is a loss of possibility, opportunity, and individual agency.

Degenerative to RegenerativeOn the other end of the continuum is “regenerative.” Here the vitality of a farm, a community, or a watershed is on-goingly developed and enhanced. The capacity and capability of the place or entity evolves, growing its complexity, interconnectedness, and ability to express its uniqueness into the world. New potential emerges that has never been seen before.

This continuum can be used to explore any system, from an individual farm to an international industry. Here we will explore it’s application to agriculture. Just as a prism spreads wavelengths of light, the regenerative continuum can be expanded to focus on different aspects of agriculture. Note that this is not “separating” different “parts” of agriculture, but rather seeing into the living whole process in order to discern aspects of how it works and its effects on the world.

Regenerative Agriculture Continuum
Regenerative Agriculture Continuum – Copyright 2011 Ethan Roland Soloviev

I created this initial diagram in 2011 while doing some local volunteer work with the Rondout Valley Growers Association. It emerged from discussions with local farmers, sparked by the question, “What will it look like on the farm of the future?”

The diagram shows a continuum of practices and characteristics of farming, from industrial chemical conventional systems to holistically managed carbon farming polycultures. This is the first rendering I had seen that could be called a “Regenerative Agriculture Continuum.”

But this diagram didn’t just pop out of a single conversation. Part of the purpose of this article is to daylight, acknowledge, and credit the sources that have inspired the Regenerative Agriculture Continuum’s development. Just like the “Books that changed my life” series, I want to show how my thinking has changed over time and invite you to evolve yours.

The first time I saw a ‘continuum’ of any sort was in a 2005 Northeast Organic Farming Association presentation by Dave Jacke, co-author of the the excellent two-volume Edible Forest Gardens. He showed what he called the “Nature-Agriculture Continuum”, which highlights the differences between conventional agriculture systems and untended “natural” systems.

Nature Agriculture Continuum
Nature Agriculture Continuum – Copyright 2005 Dave Jacke, 1992 Soule & Piper

Jacke sites “Farming in Nature’s Image” by Judy Soule and Jon Piper as the source of this concept and the specific characteristics described. Seeing this continuum was eye-opening for me, especially because it explained and distilled the experiences I had in the wild apple forests of Kazakhstan.

One interesting corollary that Dave Jacke explained in his talk is that ‘organic agriculture’ seeks to start on the left side of the continuum and over its practices back towards the right. Permaculture (and some agroforestry) on the other hand, begins on the “nature” side of the continuum and works to move the food production aspect back towards “agriculture”. This insight was undoubtedly a seed of my later work expanding the continuum… but at that point, I hadn’t even heard the word “regenerative”.

In 2009, I saw a talk by Bill Reed of Regenesis. Coming from the realm of green building and architecture, infused with permaculture thinking and the work of Pamela Mang and the rest of the Regenesis Group, Bill presented this Trajectory of Ecological Design:

Trajectory of Ecological Design
Trajectory of Ecological Design – Copyright 2000-2018 Bill Reed & Regenesis

This was transformative for me. I saw that the “sustainable” ideal that I had adopted for years was simply not sufficient. Sustainability was only the edge of degeneration – barely stopping from doing bad!

Bill shared a metaphor from Zen and the Art of Archery: “If you aim directly at the bullseye on the target, you will inevitably fall short. Instead, you must aim at a spot 200 feet past and through the bullseye. Then you’ll have a better chance of hitting your target.”

Working towards “sustainability” was no longer enough – we would inevitably fall short and be in a slightly less bad version of the current degenerative situation. It became essential for me to aim for regeneration, hoping and working to pass through sustainability along the way.

Around this time we changed the tagline of our consulting business AppleSeed Permaculture to “Regenerative Design and Development.” I asked Bill how I could get involved with the work of Regenesis and he said “We’d be happy to work with you. All you need to do is bring in a client that we can engage together.” It wasn’t until many years later that the offer came to fruition.

In the meantime, working with family farms and new agriculture enterprises in New York’s Hudson Valley, I took the idea of a “Degenerative to Regenerative Continuum” and specified it to agriculture. The concept evolved over many years doing permaculture design around the world, from the mango groves of northern Thailand to the mountain orchards of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

Almaty Kazakhstan
Early morning in Almaty, Kazakhstan – CCFlickr

At Terra Genesis International Gregory Landua and I applied the continuum to specific agricultural commodities, laying out the farming practices from degenerative to regenerative for crops like apples, cacao, almonds, honey, jojoba, and cattle. More crops are being explored each year.

The continuum continues to develop. Looking back at the earliest version pictured above, the mistakes and lack of understanding are obvious –especially on the regenerative end of the continuum. I had experienced so few farms that were actually working towards regeneration, and was not farming myself at the time.

Most people have not seen, felt, and tasted the potential of regenerative agriculture. While this is a challenge, it is also an exciting opportunity: As the global Regenerative Agriculture community continues to develop, the ‘regenerative’ end of the continuum will get more specific, beautifully complex, and evolutionary. In fact, we may even leave the continuum altogether.

Where did you first see a regenerative continuum? How has it shaped your journey? Let us know in the comments below.

Regenerative Agriculture Redefined

The term Regenerative Agriculture is cropping up all over the place. The annals of the internet are growing almost daily with articles, blog posts, tags, and tweets about farmers, corporations, and foundations shifting their attention toward the new hot thing: Regenerative Agriculture.

It is wonderful to see such a broad-scale conversation happening about agriculture, ecosystem health, and soil carbon. Unfortunately, in all the buzz, many of the definitions of Regenerative Agriculture that have emerged do not live up to its full potential.

Most focus solely on soil carbon, ignoring biodiversity, water cycles, and human wellbeing. And while soil fertility and carbon sequestration are hugely important to our planet’s capacity to grow food, they are the tip of the iceberg as far as what Regenerative Agriculture can mean and do for us.

After months of consultation with hundreds of farmers, ranchers, designers, and companies around the world, Terra Genesis International has developed a new and holistic definition of Regenerative Agriculture:

Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves water cycles, and enhances ecosystem services.

Regenerative Agriculture aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming communities.

The system draws from decades of scientific and applied research by the global communities of organic farming, agroecology, Holistic Management, agroforestry, and permaculture.

All Regenerative Agriculture Practices are guided by Principles, which are uniquely applied to each specific climate and bioregion:

4 Principles of Regenerative Agriculture

From these four emerge a diversity of Practices, which have been most extensively defined and studied for the first Principle. This definition presents these most-explored Regenerative Agriculture Practices, leaving space to articulate Practices for the other Principles in the future.

Some of the Regenerative Agriculture Practices that can progressively improve whole agroecosystems are No-Till Farming, Organic Annual Cropping, Compost & Compost Tea, Biochar & Terra Preta, Pasture Cropping, Managed Grazing (HM, Savory HM, AMP, MIG), Animal Integration, Aquaculture, Perennial Crops, Silvopasture, Agroforestry. (Here’s Sheldon Frith’s list for some diversity.)

A comprehensive list and description of climate-specific Regenerative Agriculture Practices is available in The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Regenerative Agriculture (Toensmeier, 2016).

Regenerative Agriculture develops out of the living system of connection between humans and their ecosystem through agriculture. Like living systems, Regenerative Agriculture will evolve and grow.

This definition is a starting point: We welcome a global conversation to continue developing and improving it so we can effectively reverse climate change and regenerate the planet.

What are your thoughts on Regenerative Agriculture? What will happen if the “definition” only includes soil carbon? What’s the most important action you can take to grow adoption of Regenerative Agriculture in the world?

RESOURCES

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Carbon Farming and Regenerative Agriculture at Tufts University

I gave this talk as part of the “Biodiversity for a Livable Climate” kick-off conference at Tufts University in Boston, MA. We were preparing for the upcoming Carbon Farming Course, and the talk starts with some good basic Carbon Farming and Carbon Sequestration theory.

All of the “Tools for Regenerative Agriculture” described are extremely relevant – if even 5% of farmers globally would adopt these practices there would be a massive change in agricultural livelihoods and carbon sequestered.

Carbon Farming StatisticsHowever, I’ve since come to realize that just teaching a set of “practices” is not sufficient.

Practices are chosen through principles, and principles emerge from paradigms. Evolving our personal paradigms, and supporting others to evolve theirs, will produce a much greater effect than simply describing, or even demonstrating, “practices”.

I’ve been working more recently with fellow farmers on understanding, “What are the paradigms of agriculture?” and “What paradigm am I currently thinking through?”

The ‘Levels of Agriculture’ workshop I gave recently at the Young Farmers Conference aimed in this direction. The ‘Levels of Regenerative Agriculture‘ white paper is a deeper dive into the regenerative realm.

Enjoy the video and let me know what’s relevant for you!

Regenerative Enterprise: 4 Years Later

This month we released translations of our book Regenerative Enterprise into 4 new languages. Potential readership increased by 986 million people; the area in which readers might live increased by 3 billion hectares or 21% of the earth’s landmass. Regenerative Enterprise in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French

On February 17, 2017 we release Regenerative Enterprise in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French. 

When we wrote the book in 2013, the terms “Regenerative Enterprise” and “Regenerative Business” were almost unheard of. These days the term is hot, appearing everywhere from SOCAP to Sustainable Brands to the Harvard Business Review.

On this 4-year anniversary, we are pausing to reflect on the evolution of the ideas presented in our book. We highlight one area that has stayed largely the same, explore four areas where our thinking has changed significantly, and conclude with specific learnings about how to create Regenerative Enterprise Ecosystems.

What Has Remained the Same

The unique and essential message of our work remains unchanged: 

Eight Forms of Capital, ©2017 Copyright Regenerative Enterprise Institute

Eight Forms of Capital, ©2017 Copyright Regenerative Enterprise Institute

The Eight Forms of Capital still exist. Financial capital is still the dominant global currency. The continual pursuit of Financial-capital-only profits perpetuates the highly destructive extraction of value from Living and Cultural capitals.

Increasing and evolving the health of whole living systems requires nurturing all forms of capital. To do so, Regenerative Businesses must generate multi-capital profits — especially to cultivate the four “Nurture Capitals”: Living, Social, Spiritual, and Cultural.

It is extremely difficult for any single company to accomplish this alone. Therefore, businesses must mimic natural systems, designing and operating Regenerative Enterprise Ecosystems that integrate and optimize for multiple forms of capital as a whole network.

What Has Changed

Our thinking, and the field we are all working in, has evolved and grown significantly in each of the following four areas.

Change 1. Uplifted Ground

We can feel a palpable shift in the global business community. The “soil” of the worldwide enterprise is enriched and enlivened. Companies are focusing on ecological and social wellbeing, from massive brands like Unilever to multitudes of small and medium social enterprises and purpose-driven businesses. Investment has also grown: Socially responsible and impact investing increased 347% from 2010–2016 (Assets in SRI grew from $2.51 trillion to $8.72 trillion; Source: US SIF)

At the same time, our Regenerative Enterprise thinking has been adopted, engaged, and evolved around the world. Eight Forms of Capital has been featured in the Regenerative Capitalism work of the Capital Institute, by international firm Frog’s “Designmind” blog, at an International Development Design Summit in Brazil, as the organizing framework for the book Prosper!, in Slow Money Chapters around the US, by the GoodWork Institute, and has been taught at institutions of higher education from Columbia to the University of California.

More than ever before, the business world is ripe and ready for Regenerative Enterprise.

Change 2. Connected to Source

We originally learned the term “Regenerative” from the Permaculture movement and the landscape design thinking of John Tillman Lyle. Unfortunately, we used the term as it’s used in many current contexts: functional, flat, and lacking potential.

It turns out that there is a community of practitioners who have been using and growing the work of Regeneration. Led by author and educator Carol Sanford, the community has pioneered the work of Regenerative Business for over 40 years inside of major companies like Google, Clorox, DuPont, Colgate Palmolive, and Seventh Generation. The work continues through the annual Regenerative Business Summit, hosted by the Carol Sanford Institute and Regenerative Business Alliance.

Regenerative Business Summit

 

Since the Regenerative Enterprise was released we have had the opportunity to engage deeply with this community. It thoroughly disrupted our limited understanding of Regeneration, business, and enterprise, as well as our overly mechanistic beliefs about how people and organizations grow.

Working with the Carol Sanford Institute is like stepping out of “flatland” — a cave where everything exists only in a colorless and restricted two dimensions — and into a rich new multi-dimensional world outside of what we thought was possible.


Change 3. Principles & Imperatives

In our book we offer nine principles and three imperatives to help you develop the effectiveness and multi-capital profits of your business: 

These principles are excellent. If every business in the world worked by them, we’d be living in a different world. And, we have learned that simply taking someone else’s principles (even really “good” ones) and applying them to your business is not effective or regenerative.

Instead, principles must be generated fresh for each business, from the business itself. Each entrepreneur and each enterprise is thoroughly unique, and can express its uniqueness through developing it’s own set of managing principles. This is similar to the faulty (yet extremely popular) idea of “best practices” — the idea that something that worked for someone somewhere else will necessarily be the “best” approach in your unique situation. It won’t. Blindly adopting “best practices” is the opposite of expressing your own uniqueness — in fact, it squashes creativity and innovation.

The same goes for global imperatives. Working with living systems frameworks like the Eight Forms of Capital, Regenerative Enterprises must articulate their own imperatives. Once clear and fully adopted, unique principles and imperatives are a powerful source of effectiveness for each business to have its desired impact on the world.


Interlude: How to Create Regenerative Enterprise Ecosystems

In the last four years we have designed and grown Regenerative Enterprise Ecosystems around the world. We’ve built them for multi-national corporations, for specific industries (e.g. Regenerative Cacao), and for our own communities (e.g. Finka Aekolado & Cooperativa EcoCacao).

I asked my co-author Gregory Landua to share his thoughts on the strongest forces at play when designing and developing Regenerative Enterprise Ecosystems. Here’s what he said:

The biggest restraints are the interface between modern industrial supply logistics monocultures and the creative polyculture of direct-trade-driven regenerative agriculture.

The economy of scale required for the current monoculture is hard to achieve, but entrepreneurs keep trying. This is not really the pathway towards a regenerative economy.

Pushing against these restraints is the enormous groundswell of people with deep desire to find solutions that address the roots of ecological, social, and economic crises.

How can we reconcile these opposing forces? 

1. Enterprises must have a strong sense of the six streams of Regenerative Business so they can see how to add value to all players in the ecosystem.

2. Businesses should create strong relationships instead of trying to compete on the alienating commodities markets where externalized costs make it impossible to show the true multi-capital damage of “business as usual”.

3. Cultivate reciprocity at the level of the enterprise ecosystem and beyond. This is not possible if everyone is trying to simply extract value from the system. Multi-capital profits require non-linear reciprocity.


Change 4. Beyond the Ecosystem

Building interconnected clusters of businesses that mimic the capacity of natural systems to regenerate the four nurture capitals is important. What has changed in our thinking is that we no longer believe this is enough.

Truly regenerative enterprise ecosystems must take aim at shifting a specific larger system in the world — something larger than themselves, but also concrete — “Optimizing to generate multiple forms of capital” is good, but it is too abstract in to drive strategic business design.

If companies do not clearly and specifically choose which system they want to change (e.g., the criminal justice system, the business education system, the commodities supply system), they will not be effective in generating new potential and possibility in the world.

Focusing on a concrete system to change will help magnetize appropriate businesses to engage with a growing enterprise ecosystem. Regenerative Enterprise Ecosystems must look beyond themselves, and design specific strategies to put their multi-capital profits to work to contribute to larger systemic transformation. 

What’s Next?

Invite your Spanish-, French-, Italian-, and Portuguese-speaking contacts to read Regenerative Enterprise. If you haven’t read it yet, get the English version. All the books are available in multiple formats at the Regenerative Enterprise Institute.

Translations: The jump from 1.5 billion English speakers to 2.5 billion potential readers is a big step, but it’s not enough.

Who will translate the ideas into Mandarin? Hindi? Arabic? Russian? Bengali?

Who will design and grow place-sourced locally appropriate Regenerative Enterprise Ecosystems in each bioregion of the earth?

After hearing what’s changing for us… what will you change next?