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We live in a time of rampant pollution and waste, resource scarcity, biodiversity loss, and warming global temperatures. Without action, climate breakdown could displace hundreds of million people by 2050 and result in a disastrous loss of biodiversity. In crafting a way forward for future generations, we are faced with an enormous task: redesigning our systems— fast.

 

But the good news is that changemakers around the world are championing alternative ways of living. Many of these are inspired by nature itself, as well as traditional, indigenous, and pre-industrial practices that hinge on careful resource use and management—necessitating respect for and emulation of the natural environment.

 

This is where the regenerative economy comes in. Now is the time to bring clarity to this transformative concept to help us move from theory to action.

 

With RESPOND Insights we aim to contribute to the transformation by adding data-points and insights at the intersection of sustainability, business, and innovation.

 

APPLYING THE THREE HORIZONS MODEL TO NEW MATERIALS

We have to learn how to work with existing systems that are breaking down, while nurturing the conditions and supporting disruptive innovations that will enable a new regenerative system to emerge. These dynamics of breakdown and emergence, as well as the bridge between them, are well presented in the Three Horizons model from the International Futures Forum.

 

It is clear that the prevailing system of resource production and consumption cannot sustainably carry us into the future. Although material innovations to move us to a more regenerative resource use paradigm have been entering markets for decades, particularly in recent times the field of modern materials science has advanced tremendously.

 

By incorporating the latest scientific discoveries, the possibilities are in theory almost endless. This includes materials that perform better in terms of weight, strength, and durability; materials with unique optical, magnetic or electric properties; self-healing materials; new materials that fully replace harmful non-renewable inputs, or next-gen materials that replace and mimic animal based products, as well as materials that are fully circular and use various biomimicry principles.

 

APPLYING THE THREE HORIZONS MODEL TO NATURE-POSITIVE SOLUTIONS

Navigating the shift from environmentally harmful practices to sustainable innovations is a complex journey, and our approach involves using the Three Horizons Model to identify promising technologies. Despite the long history of eco-friendly innovations, they often took a backseat to less sustainable methods.

 

In recent years, heightened awareness of climate and pollution issues has brought green innovations to the forefront, driven by advancements in technology like drones and AI.

 

Examples include bio-inspired designs and ecosystem restoration. However, challenges persist, with traditional views treating nature primarily as a commodity, impacting investment in sustainable innovations. Supporting these initiatives is crucial to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable future.

 

REGENERATIVE ECONOMY REPORT

Through its Expert Workshop Series 2022, RESPOND, the BMW Foundation, Circle Economy, and SYSTEMIQ aimed to foster the dialogue around the transition towards a Regenerative Economy. In this workshop series, we brought together experts on new economic models, business leaders, innovators, and changemakers from various sectors of society.

 

Regeneration is not only about the natural ecosphere, it is about restoring the social tissue and our very own wellbeing as human beings. It is an invitation to rethink the theoretical framework that guides our relationships with each other as well as our interdependence with the planet.

 

As one of the most fundamental underlying systems of society, the economy, in particular, is presented with the necessity — and opportunity — to re-invent itself and align with a regenerative worldview. The prevailing economic model, built on a short-sighted and linear system of extraction, overconsumption and exploitation, is starting to transform in front of our eyes.

 

 

‘Our financial and economic systems need to align with the only system that has stood the test of time, and let that be the guiding principle. That is nature.’ – Laura Storm (2022)

 

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