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Business Models, from Linear to Circular to Regenerative and Abundant

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

Regeneration is all about creating multiple values for all species, including humans

We are doing something funny in our human systems. We are trying to create money by making everything scarce. That's just not smart. Why not design business models that create multiple values for people and biodiversity by using an abundance mindset?

In the 25+ years, I worked in regular business, I never knew this either. So I hope we can learn and explore together what it means for future business models.

Here's a start to this kind of thinking.

  • Economy and ecology share the same etymological root. Ecology means knowledge of the household. Economy means managing the household. Why would we want to manage something without understanding it fully?

  • The economy is made by people, so we can change the rules of the game

  • Humans have a heart, so the economy should be driven by heart as much as by fair governance and fair money rules

  • Humans are part of ecosystems, so let's learn how to take the complete web of life into account when (re)designing our economy

Linear Economy

Let me start with the business model I knew for so long: the linear one. We take resources. And we create pollution by mining, air pollution, water pollution, etc. We produce a product. Often it's toxic and creates waste. We supply to a market. Create more waste and pollution transporting it. And in the end, all is waste. We can do better, so much better!


Responsibility for All Creation

Business is all about creating value. But now, we often limit that value to money. Why? Why not create multiple values and take responsibility for all that we create?

Why not create a business model where a carpet for instance is circular in its material use ánd creates a healthy indoor climate because it purifies the air?

Why not create a business model where textiles are not polluting the rivers with their synthetic microfibers when washed? Why can fabric not be biodegradable, made of fibers that grow abundantly without synthetic fertilizers, and thus help restore healthy topsoil? Or contribute to healthy waters if you use a biodiverse ecosystem of algae as a resource?


Ecosystems Functions Included

Humans are part of nature, we should not rule and manipulate trying to do it better. Nature has been innovating for more than 4.6 billion years now and with an ingenuity that is incomparable. So it’s time to take nature into account and embrace all aspects of our business models.

Let’s have a look at the ecosystem services. Or I'd rather call them ecosystem functions. They are not only designed for humans… But they can be consciously included in business models. (Picture from WWF, Living Planet Report 2016)

Economies of Scope

What a world of opportunities! So how do we make sure we incorporate these benefits into our business models and make them viable? We change ‘economies of scale’ into ‘economies of scope’ and let synergy do its work.

The Montana beer brewery is a good example of how to brew beer and make bread, healthy soil, clean water, energy, fish, and algae in the process. (Picture from Ask Nature Nuggets)

Wow! This business model will create more benefits for all ánd more income streams. Because the second product uses a waste stream of the first as a resource, the model as a whole will show multiplier effects. Such a business model creates abundance for all species!


El Hierro, Regenerating an Area

On El Hierro, the smallest Canary Island belonging to Spain, the inhabitants have done it on a somewhat larger scale. They clustered all these kinds of companies in a regenerative economy. They first made a decision about what they want to be. The answer was ‘an agricultural island with regenerative tourism’, so all businesses here know what they should contribute to.

They started building with that WHY in mind. On El Hierro, the economy is now 25+ years old. And working fairly with lots of cooperatives and local value share for humans and biodiversity.

(Top picture credit: Jan Jongert, Superuse Studios)

Many more stories by Desiree Driesenaar can be found on Medium. Originally published on Medium as Business Models, from Linear to Circular to Regenerative.

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