The regenerative world — a vision for the only future we have
If we simply stick to “sustainability” and “climate neutrality” goals, we’re doomed. We need to rethink how we invest resources to mitigate climate change.
Don’t get me wrong: I am glad that sustainability has finally become a trend. Pledges from countries and companies to become climate neutral within 10, 20, or 30 years are steps in the right direction, actions that should have been taken already half a century ago. And that’s just the first of the three problems:
- Those pledges come far too late.
- Not all companies and countries pledge to become climate-neutral. This hardly adds up to a net-zero economy.
- And even if all humankind would become climate-neutral by 2030, it wouldn’t even be close enough to reverse global warming after 250 years of industrialization.
Already today, we are at CO2 levels at 417ppm. This level means a further rise of temperatures, which means that we most likely will reach the cascading tipping points. And this means that even without further human intervention, the CO2 level would rise to more than 1200ppm, leading to hothouse earth of at least 8°C above pre-industrial levels.
To be clear: If we stick to sustainability and climate neutrality goals, we’re doomed.
We need to go beyond sustainability
To stabilize our life on Earth, we need to change from climate-neutral goals to climate-positive goals. Those goals can only be reached by building a regenerative world.
My vision of a regenerative world in which our society thrives within planetary boundaries builds on the following four pillars:
- Renewable energy: Our society and economy are powered by an abundance of renewable energy. The economics of such energy will allow completely new ways of flourishing.
- Cradle-to-cradle material use: We have achieved full circularity. From design to production, usage, and after-usage — products are intelligently managed to extract natural resources and keep them productive.
- Regenerative systems: High system and infrastructure efficiency minimize resource wastefulness. This ranges from intelligent, autonomous, shared mobility services to intelligent buildings management up to moving agriculture from depletive to regenerative.
- Equity: Companies are fully accountable for their impact on people and the planet. Inequality gaps, from material and energy up to race and gender, have been closed. No living beings are being exploited. The harm caused by the climate crisis has been dealt with in equitable solidarity.
Some companies lead the way, be it for the planet, for profit, or both. In the fast fashion industry, we see incumbents such as H&M pioneering circular principles. With IKEA, another major material consumer is heading towards regenerative by accounting not just for their own footprint, but also their customers’ and their suppliers’ footprint. Even one step ahead: Ecosia. The search engine already accounts for its suppliers and has even surpassed the 200% mark of renewables in its energy mix.
Entire industries are beginning to transform towards a regenerative world: The pioneers in the food sector are heavily investing in more regenerative systems such as vertical, precision, and regenerative farming, as well as plant-based proteins which are now a mainstream alternative.
We are on the verge of a comprehensively new form of business and society. And that’s good because there is no alternative: The regenerative world is the only truly sustainable world for ten billion people soon living on our planet.