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Regenerativity vs Sustainability

References from, among others, Gjørvad and Rosenstock (2021) [hereafter ‘G&R’] will help us understand what this entails.

A clarification: G&R claims that a regenerative mindset surpasses the ambitions of the circular economy. To that I would say, yes – if we are talking about the conventional circular economy. But for what I have described as a real circular economy, the two terms are comparable.


G&R comments on this graph from Brown et.al (editors) 2018 as follows:

“ It is no longer enough to define being sustainable as synonymous with zero emissions, and in order to restore the planet’s health, we must to a greater extent create innovative solutions that manage to build up rather than break down.

..In the past, it was normal to see sustainability as an equilibrium problem, where sustainable operation was defined by the fact that we “take as much as we give”. Limiting and zeroing out negative impact has long been the focus of achieving sustainable operations.

In this context, a sustainable company has ambitions for climate neutrality, where the bad and the good hopefully balance each other out. For example, companies such as Equinor and SAS have ambitions to become more sustainable by reaching this equilibrium point by 2050.

Today, it is no longer the case that companies exclusively yearn to achieve this point of equilibrium, and more are therefore moving towards a restorative mindset. Here, the focus is to a greater extent on doing more good than harm. If we move one step further towards “less bad, more good”, we find the regenerative mindset. In short, regenerative is about both rebuilding and developing rather than exclusively reducing the damage caused, where both the planet, society and the health of people is in focus.

Nora Lade Gjørvad og Key Rosenstock (21. september 2021)Regenerativ økonomi — den nye bærekraftsbølgen  [own translation, emphasize and text in brackets added]


According to Brown et.al (2018:8):

‘” To do more good we open doors to restore environments and communities, and to create and enable conditions for environmental, social and economic regenerative growth.”