The fourth factor of a regenerative enterprise is that it recognizes its actual place within the larger whole systems in which it exists. Consider the following diagram:
Figure 5.2 Nested systems.
The answer to this question may seem obvious, but few enterprises are acting as if they understand or believe it. Human systems are governed by the same fundamental laws as all natural systems. An enterprise working to regenerate multiple forms of capital will be significantly more successful if it models its own paradigms, processes, and practices after the ecosystems in which it exists.
One implication of this reality is that individual enterprises do not exist in a vacuum. Each enterprise is constantly interacting with other businesses, organizations, and individuals – it is an organism in a larger web of organisms, an interconnected part of a dynamic network. In healthy ecosystems, organisms fulfill specific roles and occupy specific niches, utilizing and transforming different forms of living and material capital in a way that ultimately benefits the whole. The relationships are (for the most part) mutually supportive, and form the beautiful complex mysterious evolving natural world that teems around all of us, despite years of mistreatment and degradation.
For example, non-human ecosystems produce no “waste” – every output of an organism or system becomes available as an input to another organism or system. The fallen tree becomes food for soil-building fungi; the fungi sprouts a mushroom which becomes food for insects; the insects become food for birds; the birds eventually die and compost into useful nutrients to feed the trees. Individual organisms live and thrive and die, but the overall health, resilience, and foundational living capital of the system is growing.
Awareness of ecosystem mimicry as an essential factor of regenerative enterprise points to an uncomfortable truth: regenerative enterprises cannot exist alone.
What would it look like if an enterprise could successfully become aware of itself in the context of a larger system? If it could consciously co-pattern it’s capital inflows and outflows in a way that supported the thriving foundation of all four nurture capitals? What if companies designed synergistic enterprise ecologies, where each organism could play a particular part, in relationship with other organisms, in the positive development of the whole?
Regenerative Enterprise: Optimizing for Multi-Capital Abundance by Ethan C. Roland & Gregory Landua