The Four Nurture Capitals
At best, triple-bottom line enterprises tend to ‘do no harm’ to ecological and social systems, while ensuring their continued financial capital abundance. With looming climate chaos, post-peak petroleum wars, near-peak water and precious metal resources, and rapidly decreasing biodiversity, this simply is not enough.
The pools of valuable resources from which living systems spring (social, cultural, spiritual, and living capital) must be replenished. To do so, they must be nurtured – not pushed, or coerced, or harassed into increasing, but lovingly and carefully supported to re-sprout and regrow from their already sad, angry, bruised, and mistreated state.
Like killing the proverbial goose for the stash of golden eggs, enterprises cannot continue to ransack the forest for the trees or forcibly re-locate peoples to mine the fuels and ore beneath them. The four ‘nurture capitals’ can slowly be regenerated on the local, bioregional, and global scale – as long as the enterprises that exist in them learn to nurture their healthy expression and growth.
A regenerative enterprise does not harvest the root of the tree of production, only its fruit. They gather the unique, surplus, place-based goods and services that are emergent properties of healthy eco-cultural systems, while simultaneously nurturing the system’s ability to thrive. The regenerative enterprise helps to grow the roots deeper and wider, healing the damage that has been done and eventually creating the possibility of new and larger fruits.
For example, consider New Forest Farm in Wisconsin. The dominant agriculture system in this area of the midwestern United States continues to strip living capital out of the ecosystem, sending it eroding downstream or shipping it to the ethanol distilleries to fuel more cars. Financial capital yields are significant for large agribusiness companies, but continue to impoverish local communities and decrease the organic matter content of soils. New Forest Farm reverses the trend by increasing organic matter and fertility in the soil through permaculture farming practices – nurturing living capital back towards health. By harvesting the emergent wealth of the healthy system, the farm also produces financial, material, and intellectual capital profits.26
A regenerative enterprise must cultivate the fundamental health of the four nurture capitals in order to optimize long-term production of all eight forms of capital.
26 Shepard, Mark. Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmers. Austin: Acres USA. 2013.
Regenerative Enterprise: Optimizing for Multi-Capital Abundance by Ethan C. Roland & Gregory Landua
©2013 Ethan C. Roland & Gregory Landua. All Rights Reserved.