Sustainable business has come to be understood as the greening of one’s operations. Typical strategies involve the purchasing department and facilities managers. We buy recycled paper and offer employee incentives for taking non-car transportation or carpooling. And if we are really committed, we mitigate the carbon of our energy use through a wind-energy offset program. Yet the fundamentals of business stay the same. The use of paper, energy, and plastic is still high, commutes still exist, and product lines and marketing are essentially the same, but with a few green touches. These touches are good. They are spawned from good intentions and truly lessen our environmental impact. And while being less bad is admirable, it is simply not good enough. Being less bad only postpones the breakdown of unsustainable systems for a later date. If we aspire to be green as presently defined, we risk missing the opportunity, and necessity, to be ecological and regenerative.
An ecological mindset forms interdependent relationships with the immediate surrounding world. It understands the limits that are in place, but also the opportunities for health and true sustainable enterprise. Businesses need to create strategies in order to be accessible to workers, provide services and products that are for the local community, and develop products from materials that can be infinitely recycled and locally-sourced. It follows that regenerative design creates products and services that actually work to restore ecosystems rather than break them down. These products would be able to be broken down into nutrients to be used in natural or technical cycles, as written in “Cradle to Cradle” by McDonough and Braungart. Soil health would be built, carbon cleaned from the air, and water quality improved all as the result of the product of your business. This revolutionary model makes a clean break from unsustainable business that is normative today.