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Our ecosystem has come under enormous stress owing to mass pollution, carbon emissions, and excessive depletion of resources. The biodiversity is greatly compromised today as we face unpredictable weather and land degradation. The emergence of deserts, polluted lands and deforested earth – amounting to over 75% of our planet’s degradation – has already impacted the well-being of 3.2 billion people, a recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services revealed.
As a result, more individuals and businesses are moving towards sustainable lifestyles and processes to deal with this environmental issue. But is sustainability enough, or do we need a more aggressive approach in order to preserve a healthy and sustainable planet for future generations? This is where the concept of regenerative practices comes into the picture, a key factor that has redirected the discourse of sustainability in business.
Sustainability is something that can last for a long time without interruptions or depreciation. In terms of the environment, sustainability means avoiding the depletion of resources to maintain ecological balance and the current state of the environment. But these efforts will not reduce the ecological deficit, levels of pollution, and excessive emissions in our environment. If companies want to restore and replenish what the planet has lost, adopting regenerative business models is the way to go.
So what is the difference between being regenerative and sustainable? Sustainability is more of a reactive approach where efforts are focussed on not harming the environment and stopping the irresponsible consumption of the Earth’s resources. In contrast, regeneration is more of a proactive approach where the focus is to prevent harm, actively fight back the degradation and regenerate what has been lost.
Regeneration is crucial in today’s world. Before the 1970s, the planet could generate enough resources for the whole year; today, we use up more resources than our earth can produce in a year, notes Acciona. With this consumption rate, we would need almost two planets to sustain our current way of life and economic systems. Since this is impossible, at least for now, paying attention to regenerative efforts to foster greater resilience will allow the planet to bounce back and tackle natural challenges in a way that it always did, before nature became tainted by human consumption.
Being a regenerative business means focusing on strategic decision-making where all concerned systems are interdependent on each other to create a resilient and healthy environment for everyone. A regenerative business model acknowledges the interdependence of the community, resources, and industry to support life and cultivate the growth of all economic, social, or environmental aspects.
To further understand sustainable vs regenerative businesses, consider the following example. A company adopting a sustainable approach in packaging, for instance, could use recycled plastic but it does not remove the excessive amounts of plastic from the environment. On the other hand, regenerative packaging is made from a material that benefits the planet during its lifetime. Biodegradable or raw materials for packaging, for instance, can offer a net-positive impact on the environment as they can be easily decomposed instead of contributing to polluted matter.
Regenerative companies go beyond sustainability by taking steps to offset the harm that businesses usually do through initiatives such as rewilding, ocean habitat restoration, and working with the local communities to help build back and restore what has been lost.
Because they understand how working conditions can impact the supply chain and consumer trust, regenerative businesses take ethical considerations into account, such as when choosing manufacturers, shifting workers’ mindsets, and developing individuals’ talents. Here’s a quick overview of how a regenerative company goes beyond sustainability practices:
Taking a step towards regeneration will do wonders to the environment. Here are some examples of businesses that made it happen:
In 2021, PepsiCo declared that it would be expanding regenerative farming practices across seven million acres, almost equivalent to the company’s agricultural footprint. Doing so, Pepsi asserts, would remove a minimum of three million tons of greenhouse gas emissions at the end of the decade. As a result, the lifestyle of more than 250,000 people in this agricultural supply chain would be improved.
Adopting a polyculture farming approach, Greenwave imitates the natural environment to grow high amounts of shellfish and seaweed, with a minimal carbon footprint, in hopes of developing a new ecosystem that restores marine life and uses them for commercially growing products. This program builds back ocean environments and protects against future natural disasters, making it a regenerative business.
Unilever is another company that aims to protect and regenerate natural spaces in its supply chain and beyond. Their approach encompasses regeneration and restoration of agriculture – enabled by partnerships, transparency, and technology through their Regenerative Agriculture Principles. For instance, soil takes a long time to renew and requires active soil management to improve soil quality and productivity, such as improving crop yields. Unilever intends to provide assistance to farmers during the regeneration of soil including maintaining the ground’s living roots.
The rigor of regenerative models shines a positive light on our collective efforts to protect our beloved planet. From paying attention to the stakeholders you work with, such as your international logistics provider, to the types of materials you select for your packaging can go a long way in impacting the environment. Let’s take a regenerative step and return what we took from Mother Nature. Why not engage an international logistics partner who can support your sustainability goals? Talk to us to learn more!