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Regenerative – the word abounds, but what does it mean for business to be ‘Regenerative’?

November 7, 2019

There is much buzz about the word ‘regenerative’ these days, which is good news as we desperately need to become more regenerative in our leadership and business practices, as well as our product, place and process design practices.


But what does ‘regenerative’ actually mean?


Let’s look at the definition of regenerative from the book Regenerative Leadership, co-authored by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm:


The word ‘regenerative’ means creating the conditions conducive for life to continuously renew itself, to transcend in to new forms, and to flourish amid ever-changing life-conditions. This primary principle underpins life-affirming leadership and organizational development, where our organizations help rather than hinder the logic of life. This goes beyond traditional CSR initiatives and sustainability as it is not primarily aimed at reducing negative impacts created by the current mind-set; rather, it is a move in to an entirely new mind-set, a ‘new way’ of being-and-doing in business and beyond.


With this regenerative logic: externalities become opportunities for additional value creation; waste of one output becomes food for another; stakeholders become partners to engage with through authentic communications and reciprocating relations; linear-thinking is replaced with systemic-thinking and circular economics; resources are not simply managed and controlled for short-term gain but perceived holistically in the wider context of the inter-relational matrix of life; rather than exploitation through manipulation we open-up into ‘right relationship’ with all life. Differing needs, perspectives, conflicting views and emotional dissonance are not avoided but given the space for something to be revealed through the tension into right relation. This is all about learning to become more human, while also focusing on the day-to-day reality of a profitable vibrant business.


Regenerative Business enriches life – its ‘life-affirming’. It enriches ourselves, our customers, and the wider stakeholder ecosystem, and applies the Logic of Life: a shift from mechanistic logic to the logic of living-systems.


As we explore in the book, there are three levels to this regenerative living-systems logic:


Living Systems Design:  We take inspiration from nature’s patterns, principles and processes and apply these to the designing of our products, processes and places. This is the land of biomimicry, industrial ecology, circular economics, biophilic design and more. It’s an exciting area which is revolutionizing how we design our products, processes and places.


A practical example here is Interface the multinational carpets company which is going beyond its Mission Zero sustainability objective to exploring radical innovation in its products, processes and places. Two initiatives are: 1) ‘Factory as a Forest’ – where biomimetic insights from nature are applied to factory design to enable factories to sequester (absorb) more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit, just like a forest does. 2) ‘Net-works’ – where global and local collaborations and circular design approaches spark innovation in local fishing communities who collect plastics from the sea and then work with partners to enable Interface to upcycle this plastic into carpet tiles, so the local communities benefit, the marine ecosystems benefit and so does Interface and its clients.


Living Systems Culture: We apply insights from living-systems to our organisations, helping cultivate conditions for developmental, self-managing, agile cultures. These cultures unlock the brilliance of their people, heighten the sensing-and-responding capacity of locally-attuned teams, and spark creativity and innovation across the organisation-as-living-system. These organisations are far more able to adapt and thrive in times of increased volatility and turbulence. What galvanizes these vibrant living-organisations is a strong life-affirming purpose – a focus on creating solutions, products and value propositions that enhance the fabric of society and the more-than-human world upon which we all depend.  The upshot is vibrant purposeful organisations with motivated, liberated employees. These organisations become life-affirming future-fit businesses.


A practical example here is Triodos Bank the financial services organisation that makes money work for social and environmental benefit. Its organisational culture is deeply purposeful and also collaborative, developmental and vibrant. Its relationship with its customers and suppliers form part of a rich ecosystem that serves life, not just for the partner ecosystem but for wider society and the environment. Every project the bank invests in has clear social and environmental benefits – the bank simply does not invest in anything else. By example, Triodos helped my own social enterprise with its 60 acres leadership immersion centre so that we could expand the work we do to shift leadership consciousness towards life-affirming futures and activating regenerative leadership consciousness; and also preserving natural ecosystems by preventing ancient woodland being bought by commercial developers.


Living Systems Being: Underpinning the organisational culture and design of products and processes, is the leadership consciousness we bring to our conversations, meetings and decisions – a quality of being that reaches beyond the power-playing ego-separateness and control-and-predict thinking that mires so much of today’s mechanistic managerial mentality.  Through cultivating our own leadership resilience, presence, self-awareness and systemic-awareness we create psychological safe and deep spaces for our peers, team members and wider stakeholders to journey towards wholeness, applying the wisdom of life as we step into soul-service beyond ego-machinations.


A practical example of activating this living-systems being is through well-held leadership immersions in nature where leaders can open up to and gain perspective on blind-spots, ego-masks, and projections we all inevitably have, and explore how our organisations can become more purposeful, vibrate and life-affirming. Sharing round the camp fire with people from different departments or from different organisations, in a space that encourages heart-sharing, vulnerability and deep-listening rather than ego-posturing, show-boating and self-projection, enables leaders to come up with solutions with a different quality of consciousness from that which created our problems in the first place. See  here for feedback on the value people gain from engaging in these leadership immersions.


The time has come for us to become regenerative – as leaders and as organisations. The time is now – our organisations, societies and planet depend on this shift in leadership consciousness.



Hence Regenerative Leadership – the book by leadership and sustainability experts Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm which provides an exciting and comprehensive framework for building regenerative life-affirming businesses. It offers a multitude of business cases, fascinating examples from nature’s living systems, insights from the front-line pioneers and tools and techniques for leaders to succeed and thrive in the 21st century.


Regenerative Leadership draws inspiration from pioneering thinking within biomimicry, circular economy, adult developmental psychology, anthropology, biophilia, sociology, anthropology, complexity theory and next-stage leadership development. It connects the dots between these fields through a powerful DNA model that enables leadership to become regenerative: in harmony with life, building thriving, prosperous, flourishing organizations amid transformational times. The book is a combination of theoretical frameworks, case studies, storytelling, tools & practices: Everything the leader needs to pave the way for business becoming a force for good in the world.


‘This is the must read book of 2019. I couldn’t put it down.’ Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE


See here this short video:



And visit the book’s website:


If interested in Leadership Immersions, you can join the LinkedIn group :


and for next-stage leadership and organisational development, the Facebook group:


Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019).   see Giles Hutchins for more on his coaching, speaking and advisory work.

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