What is a Regenerative Economy?

In a regenerative economy, we operate in harmony with nature. Businesses create conditions that regenerate and heal the planet. This concept builds on ecological design, which tries to restore balance in nature. We need to create a sustainable economy, one that:

  • supports human life and well-being
  • reduces fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions
  • prioritizes climate justice and climate change mitigation
  • fosters economic growth
  • values “natural capital” – natural resources

Regenerative economies thrive in healthy ecosystems, social equity, and economic growth. They value natural resources as a source of wisdom and power. They view human society as stewards of the Earth. In a sustainable economy, all people have a role to play in creating a thriving planet.


Find out more about this approach to business practices with our frequently asked questions below.

What is a sustainable economy and why is it important?

A sustainable economy doesn’t overuse natural resources. It may use waste as raw material or protect living ecosystems with organic practices. A sustainable business might recycle from local communities to make new products. Or a business owner might use business practices with fewer natural resources.

We need a sustainable economy to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • end the use of fossil fuels
  • fight climate change
  • improve human health
  • reduce environmental harm

Climate justice demands that we use sustainable business practices. This will help us deal with the climate crisis in a nature-positive way.

How does a sustainable economy happen?

A sustainable economy uses something known as a “closed loop system.” Think about copy paper to understand the difference. A closed loop system might be making paper from recycled waste. An open loop version would be producing paper from old growth forests. It’s often impossible for a “loop” to be completely closed, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

By using closed loop systems, we can avoid destroying natural resources. This fits well within the “reduce-reuse-recycle” adage of older generations. Human society thrives when we can keep our forests standing and our waters clean.

Sustainability has become so important because our current economic model is unsustainable. The current business model is damaging to global ecosystems and natural resources. By turning towards regeneration, we’ll have a stable, diverse, and efficient economic system. It’ll have better potential for long-term growth and prosperity. This will improve human life and well-being everywhere.

Leaving behind unsustainable practices will help protect the planet. We need the planet’s finite resources for future generations. A sustainable economy fits into the principles of climate justice. Embracing a regenerative economy is essential for sustainable global progress.

How can we transition to a regenerative economy?

A regenerative economy needs to thrive within the natural limits of our planet. There are a few simple ways that businesses can change their practices:

  • Move away from mineral-dependent processes
  • Reduce or divest from fossil fuels
  • Rethink production, consumption, and resource management
  • Put environmental sustainability first
  • Use renewable energy sources like solar and wind
  • Reduce waste during production
  • Offset your fossil fuels impact with carbon sequestration (capture)

There are many ways that community leaders can run a sustainable, successful business. By prioritizing human well-being, business leaders can cut carbon emissions and still grow. Business leaders should consider using the UN’s sustainable development goals to guide them.

What are the sustainable development goals?

In 2015 the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They’re a set of 17 goals. These goals provide a framework for governments, businesses, and civil society. They help end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. The SDGs focus on issues like:

  • ending poverty
  • tackling climate change
  • creating clean and affordable energy sources

Is a regenerative economy important to you? Read more about the SDGs and find out how they can fit into your business model.

What are the benefits of a regenerative economy?

A regenerative economy prioritizes the health of our environment and communities. Regenerative economic models can have many benefits for us and for future generations. It reduces carbon emissions and can:

  • increase energy efficiency
  • enable people to become more self-sufficient
  • generate new jobs
  • support local businesses
  • encourage the sustainable use of resources

With a regenerative economy, we create a fair society. One that values ecological integrity alongside financial security. It’s an exciting challenge that each of us can contribute to in some way or another.

Regenerative economics can create a more resilient environment for generations to come. By creating and improving closed loop systems, we can ensure a healthier planet.

How will a regenerative economy improve our lives?

A regenerative economy has tremendous potential to transform our lives in positive ways. Pollution and waste are not only annoying byproducts of economic activity. Instead, they’re potential resources to reuse or recycle.

When we transition to sustainable business models, we protect and restore healthy ecosystems. This could result in many benefits like:

  • more access to clean energy (wind, solar, hydro)
  • less air and water pollution in our environment
  • reduced health hazards associated with conventional energy sources
  • increased valuable environmental education opportunities

A regenerative economy will help businesses make responsible choices about production and consumption. A regenerative economy is the pathway forward through climate change.

Are there any negative aspects of a regenerative economy that we should be aware of ?

An economy that uses regenerative principles has a more holistic approach to sustainability. It should help us move toward a healthier environment. But there may be some negative aspects.

Some argue that this shift could harm those who struggle with access to resources. We’ve seen this play out with marijuana legalization time and again. This could lead to deeper inequality gaps in society.

For budding business owners, choosing sustainability can be challenging. It can be harder to build a business that relies on closed loop systems. Business owners may need to compromise on their final plan. They may need to seek grants to upgrade equipment.

Final thoughts about a regenerative economy

A regenerative economy believes that we’re all interconnected. That we depend on the well-being of others. That we depend on the health of the planet. Moving to a regenerative economy means a major shift in our thinking and behaviors. But it comes with many benefits:

  • physical and mental health
  • job satisfaction
  • a cleaner environment

If you’re involved in business, the easiest way for you to work on the regenerative economy is to take a closer look. Where can you reduce, reuse, or recycle? Do you need to use natural resources to make that product? Do you advertise your environmental sustainability? Take stock of what you’re doing well and where you need improvement. Then make those changes.

Not involved in a business? Then the next best thing for you to do is to support programs like ours that put our climate first. Support the work of Dogwood Alliance by joining the Forest Defenders program.

Join the Forest Defenders today to start making a difference for the South and the planet.

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