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Regenerative Economy

The Regenerative Economy

Exploring regenerative principles for business and innovation
Net Impact's Virtual Event Series

Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

What is the catalyst that will activate our generation to end climate change in our lifetime? 

Net Impact hosted renowned climate change thought leader, activist, writer, and speaker, Paul Hawken as part of the second event in The Regenerative Economy series. Paul Hawken and PBS journalist, Paul Solman, dove deep into Hawken's book, Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation. The key question for Hawken, and the Net Impact community, were how a more inclusive movement can end climate change and how we can influence and shape inclusion through our actions and intentions. 

Featured Speakers

  • Paul Hawken, Author, Executive Director of
  • Paul Solman, PBS News Correspondent

Highlights from the Discussion: 

What does regeneration matter to you personally and how do you define it? 

Paul Hawken: "Regeneration" is a word that's coming to the fore. People are latching onto the word as fast as they can, which is lovely, but the reason I use the word is when I was writing Drawdown, I wanted to name the goal. "Regeneration" was always intended to be the how-to book. So "Regeneration" has the world's largest listed network of climate solutions and how to get them done. "Regeneration" to me is putting life at the center of every action. Look at everything you do, make, receive, purchase, and ask, "Are you increasing life on Earth or decreasing?"

What motivates you to do this work? 

Paul Hawken: I started in the sustainable agriculture business when I was twenty, so my motivation hasn't changed, but in the past year I think we've reached an inflection point and that inflection point is caused by two things. One is the IPCC--the sixth assessment came out with the term "Code Red" attached to it and there was nothing new in it if you've been tracking climate science and the news but there were two new things. For the first time, it was unanimously signed onto by the countries who are part of the UN framework on climate change. That was amazing--it's never happened before.  Second, it highlighted that we now know that the prognostications about climate science for the future were incorrect. We now know that when greenhouse gases peak, within a relatively short time warming ceases and we start to get on a pathway to cooling. Prior to that, we were told it doesn't matter if we stop in 2015 that the Earth will continue to warm and it could go on for decades and centuries, which wasn't a great motivation. So I feel like something really shifted--I can hear it in conversations with CEOs, people, friends, NGOs, was just a shift in the zeitgeist of the world that happened in the past few weeks.

What can YOU do? 

  • Check out the science fiction author, Kim Stanley Robinson, for Paul Hawken's favorite solutions for climate change
  • If you have kids, "take them outside and have the experience of how mysterious, miraculous, and amazing life is and how it works. So that they, without realizing it, fall in love--because we protect what we love." 
  • Get in touch with that sensibility that we all have that's about kindness, compassion, and caring...What regeneration offers us is the capacity and ability to come home. When we come home in ourselves, then we look at the world around us and see the problems: the perfidy, the corruption, beauty, joy, and misunderstanding--we see it as a whole; we see the system, and we see ourselves within it. Within it, we then can understand, "Who can I be? What can I be in the systems I see that are so beautifully complex and troubled in a way that is actually a kindness to the world?"

What can you do through Net Impact? 

  • Join one of our programs to collaborate with like-minded individuals striving to make the world a better place: Net Impact Programs 


Building a Regenerative Economy: How Green Swans Can Achieve Impact at Scale

August 31, 2021

Our first event in the Regenerative Economy series featured John Elkington, author of Green Swans: The coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism, and a next-generation Green Swan innovator, Gary Sheng, founder of Civics Unplugged. 

In a wolf thick with challenges, the possibility of a regenerative economy - one that recognizes that people, planetary resources, and systems are interdependent - is reason for optimism. in particular, "green Swans" - innovations that deliver exponential progress in the form of economic, social, and environmental wealth creation - was the focus of this initial conversation. 

Featured Speakers

  • John Elkington, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Volans Ventures
  • Gary Sheng, Chief Operating Officer of Civics Unplugged

Highlights of the Discussion:  

What does regeneration mean to you personally and how do you define it? 

John Elkington: Ever so often a big new theme comes along: sustainability, back in the day, circular economy, shared value. Now [it's] regeneration and it's not random, this sequence of shifts... I've been involved in the sustainability movement for a very long time and I think one of the problems, when these [themes] change agendas mainstream, is they get diluted because everyone has their own interests. They bend the meaning, they bend the language based on where they happen to be at the time. I think regeneration is harder to do that with; it's less soft, in a way, as a concept. 

What was the spark that got you interested in social impact?

Gary Sheng: I didn't consider myself civically-minded at all until 2016. A lot happened that year, not just in the U.S. but in the world. What I realized was that unlike [what] some political theorists said, we weren't at the end of history. We weren't heading toward a world that was more equitable, more democratic, more humane - and that really startled me. All during college, the default was landing jobs or internships that maximized your starting salary. In 2016, I started to question that very strong, default paradigm. It took me many years to take the leap to co-found Civics Unplugged, but during those years, I recognized we had many mutually exacerbated crises that we're facing as a global community. We're only going to survive if we do something about the leadership crisis that is underlying all of it. If we don't level up our ability to lead as individuals and produce better leaders that understand regeneration, our future is bleak. 

What have been some of your blind spots and how have you been able to learn from them? 

John Elkington: Thinking back, there will have been some blind spots...Blind spots come in so many different ways. Some of them you obsess around climate change and you miss human rights or corruption or different parts of the agenda. One of the challenges for us all and one of the benefits of the ESG sort of framing is that we have to think in multiple dimensions and integrate them on the backend. 

What can YOU do? 


What is a Regenerative Economy?

Peter Lupoff, CEO, Net Impact

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Glossary of Regenerative Economy Terms

Regenerative Economy: an economic system that is subject to a social foundation for all people and abides by the rational use of natural resources within our planetary boundaries

Black Swans: an unpredictable and unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences

Green Swans: a profound market shift, generally catalyzed by some combination of Black or Gray Swan challenges and changing paradigms, values, mindsets, politics, policies, technologies, business models, and other key factors, that have the potential to catalyze significant change. 

Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.