Category Archives: Regenerative Business Examples

Set your internal program guide to the positive

Adapted from “Set your internal program guide to the positive…” in September’s issue of Regenerative Thinking in Action.

Recent research into how our brains work is increasingly proving we see what we’re looking for. The continuing story of InterfaceFLOR’s sustainability journey is a great positive to tune in to, as told in their recent update on how they’re building community wealth in the Pacific by turning old fishing net into new carpet tiles.

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Sustainia’s top 100 for 2014 makes interesting reading

Top 100 report 2014

Top 100 report 2014

It’s a chilly winter’s afternoon in my home town down under, and I’m catching up on my reading list.  The Sustainia Top 100 came out last month and it’s an inspiring way to spend some time.  It’s the third annual report on the practical, happening, fundamental shifts underway in how our products and services are being delivered. Continue reading

The craft of innovation adoption is alive and well in Samsø…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

I was reminded of this famous quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead last week, reading the story of how the Danish island of Samsø has gone renewable and become an energy exporter. The CleanTechnica article “Introducing Samsø, A 100% Wind-Powered Island” detailed not only WHAT had been done – it also gave some fascinating insight into the HOW.   Continue reading

Do you have evidence of regenerative thinking being put into practice?

To me, the Regenerative Business revolution began back in the 1990s.  Where I see examples, I post them into the LinkedIn Regenerative Business discussion group.

To me, the more we observe and applaud the emerging shift to truly win/win/win sustainable business models, the more we can accelerate their spread.  Whether it’s a suburban accountant installing a master power-off switch in a building refurbishment or a plastics manufacturer turning post-consumer waste into quality packaging, there’s a lot going on.

So now it’s your turn – what shifts are you observing towards business models where:

  • there are no products  – only valuable services
  • there are no wastes – only valuable by-products
  • products are designed for total safety
  • products are designed for re-manufacture as products-of-service
  • products are designed to copy nature’s smart thinking – renewable materials, renewable energy, room-temperature processes
  • resource usage is radically reduced
  • small, smart local solutions are replacing big infrastructure/big waste solutions

Share them as a comment here, in the LinkedIn Regenerative Business group, or through the Balance3 Contact page.



This tiny house uses mushrooms as insulation

Fascinating example of leveraging nature (biomimicry)


Usually you do not want fungi in the walls of your home. But Ecovative is building a home in which having fungi in the walls is the entire point. The “Mushroom Tiny House” will use mycelium (the mass of threadlike “roots” that mushrooms use to take in nutrition) for insulation.

According to Inhabitat, this stuff is basically asbestos except that it’s not bad for the planet, won’t give you cancer, and is related to something you might put on a pizza:

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O’Hare Opens the World’s First Farmer’s Market in an Airport, Fed by a Future Growing® Vertical Farm

An interesting ‘small, local, smart solution’ – maybe one of the world’s shortest commercial supply chains?

Future Growing LLC

On a recent business trip to the Northeast US, I booked a flight that would allow me a long layover at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Even though most business travelers run from a layover, I had an ulterior motive.

I wanted to visit the airport’s flagship vertical aeroponic Future Growing® O’Hare urban garden — the world’s first food farm inside an airport terminal. The great thing about visiting this airport farm is that you don’t need a rental car or a hotel room, and you don’t have to go through security again. The farm is centrally located right in the airport at the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, near the entrance to Concourse G.
Even though I had visited the ground-breaking farm that provides chemical-free herbs and vegetables to airport restaurants several times before, I like to stop in from time to time and meet with our farmers personally.

On my…

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Cacti can clean up poisonous soils

Regenerative Thinking in Practice.

Principle #5 – Leverage Nature’s Solutions

Nature has spent millions of years working out how to do things  with renewable materials at room temperature – let’s make the most of those answers.

More on Biomimicry and Industrial Design at:


Here are a few things you do with a prickly pear cactus: Get poked. Turn its fruit into jam. Use it to clean up dangerous concentrations of selenium in arid California lands.

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, a long history of artificial irrigation has impregnated the soil with selenium. In small quantities, selenium is beneficial to humans and animals — essential, even. In larger quantities, it’s toxic.

Prickly pear cacti, though, can thrive in these soils, even though irrigation has also made the soil and water dangerously salty.

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Ontera proves Interface is no fluke

(From the Balance3 June newsletter)

It’s great to have a local story to combat “yes – but it’s different here”.  A favourite story of ours is that of InterfaceFLOR – a commercial carpet manufacturer making a big difference. So hearing about the case study of Sydney carpet maker Ontera at a workshop last month was great.

Ontera has profited significantly from their sustainability strategy, and their five year results show they’re making great progress “climbing Mount Sustainability”. Some of their results so far include:

  • 40 per cent reduction in electricity and gas use (per m2 finished) over five years.
  • 25 per cent reduction in waste over five years.
  • 40 per cent reduction in water consumption in five years

From a regenerative perspective, their loop-closing explorations are particularly interesting:

  • Diverting used carpet tile from landfill into local reuse and recycling initiatives: and
  • Turning waste trim into an input to carpet underlay manufacture.

Read more about their journey so far at: resources/sustainbus/1019SA_Ontera_cs.pdf

Hume BEN delivers again

This case study was one of many presented by John O’Brien of Australian Cleantech at the City of Hume’s Business Efficiency Network Cleantech session in May. A range of other great case studies are in John’s presentation which is available at: Business_Networking_Training/Business_Sustainability/ Business_Sustainability_Events_News

The City of Hume’s Business Efficiency Network is a great place to find out about what’s happening in Australian regenerative business. Membership is free, event fees are minimal and the food is great too. If you’re based in Melbourne and interested in Resource Recovery, Industrial Ecology or Cleantech then think about joining. Check it out at: Business_Networking_Training/Business_Sustainability

Wisconsin hospital is powered by beer and cheese

Regenerative Business Principle #2: There are NO wastes
Regenerative Business Principle #7: Think smart, small and local.


Gundersen Lutheran Hospital, in La Crosse, Wis., aims to be energy independent by 2014. Hospitals use a ton of energy, so that’s a tough goal to meet. But Gundersen is getting there by piggybacking on Wisconsin’s best-known industries: beer and cheese.

Beer and cheese, while delicious, both slough off a lot of gas while they’re being made. (Not to mention after they’re consumed.) The hospital system has been sourcing biogas from a local brewery and from a dairy farm that makes mascarpone and fresh mozzarella cheese. And recently the system started getting gas from a La Crosse landfill, as well.

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Why? What? How? What Else? A personal interpretation of the Interface “mid course correction”

In a recent post, I summarised the 4MAT learning styles model and its application to  effective communication.  One well-documented regenerative business success story is Ray Anderson’s “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist” – from 1996 to 2008, Interface cut their greenhouse emissions by 71% while doubling their earnings.  It’s a great story and a useful way to explore 4MAT too.

4MAT revisited…

First a quick refresher.  4MAT proposes that if you cover the following four points in this sequence, you have a better chance of engaging more people:

  1. Why? Imaginative learners need to connect what they’re hearing with prior knowledge and experience.  Connect what you’re communicating with their personal meaning system.
  2. What? Analytic learners want to know the underlying theory and the authorities behind it.  Give them information about the facts as experts see them.
  3. How? Pragmatic learners want to jump in – to get hands on and learn in the doing. Answer the question “How does this work (specifically)?”
  4. What Else?  Dynamic learners learn by doing, and then explore what else they can do with what they’ve learned.  Answer the question “What can this become?”

“Why?” Elements of the Interface Story

Why did Ray Anderson take on such a major shift in policy and strategy?  What elements of his personal meaning systems does he describe?

  • Ray was an entrepreneur.  He believed that what his customers wanted was important.  If they wanted more than compliance then he needed to understand what that was.  He had a strong drive to “do it my way”.
  • Ray had been trained that “there’s always a better way” during his early engineering studies.  He was tuned in to “what else?”
  • Ray was moving towards retirement and looking for both a legacy to leave AND a new interest.
  • Ray experienced two key understandings from reading the books “The Ecology of Commerce” and “Ishmael”.  The first was a deep understanding that “humans can catastrophically change eco-systems”.   The second was the challenge issued by Paul Hawken “business is the only group big enough to fix this”

Think of someone who you want to  influence towards a more regenerative future.  Get specific – choose an individual business owner, a business networking group, a professional association.  What is their prior knowledge and experience?  What are their concerns in life and in business?  How  could you engage with them?

“What?” Elements

What’s the underlying theory and the authorities behind it?  What are the facts as experts see them?

  • First of all, the fact that’s most surprising to many:  Sustainability saves money and makes money.  According to Ray Anderson,  from 1996 to 2008, Interface cut their greenhouse emissions by 71% while doubling their earnings. 
  • Interface engaged with a holistic view of sustainability, shifting from a one-way take/make/waste business model to a close loop systems where there are no wastes (only resources) powered by clean, renewable sources of energy.  Authorities in this area include Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, Janine Beynus and Karl-Hendrik Robert  amongst many others.
  • Interface set a clear, specific goal but no deadline – their objective is to “climb Mount Sustainability” and achieve the goal of “zero footprint”.  They borrowed “the goal of zero” from Total Quality Management and extended it.
  • Interface went searching for “win/win” solutions where they could save money or make money BY improving their environmental effectiveness. Authorities on win/win business strategies are numerous, and include best-selling authors Jim Collins (Good to Great, Built to Last)  and Stephen Covey (The Third Way).
  • Interface made the climb part of who they are and what they stand for – a part of their culture that’s the responsibility of everybody.  They educated everybody on sustainability, set goals, measured performance, rewarded innovation and published the results.   

In designing your sustainability communication, do you have clear statements of “what” the results you want to see are, and references back to the authorities that are behind the results?

“How?” Elements

Pragmatic learners want to jump in and do – to get answers to the question “How does this work (specifically)?”  So you need specific examples, not just principles.

Here are some specific examples of how Interface engaged their associates in the climb up Mount Sustainability:

  • They paid direct incentives to employees who came up with good ideas.
  • They developed a holistic evaluation process that included factors such as market presence, reputation and leadership were included alongside costs and ROI calculations.
  • They kept score and made sure everybody knew how they were doing and how they compared with other plants.

Interface’s specific strategies and results are many and varied – they’re smart local solutions instead of one-size-fits-all attempts.  Some examples include:

  • They powered one factory off the methane being produced from a local garbage tip, turning a pollutant into an energy source.
  • They switched from printing designs on their carpet to tufting in different yarn colours, making use of existing equipment functionality and completely designing out VOCs.
  • They designed carpet surfaces to copy the elegant randomness of a forest floor, reducing installation time and materials waste because there was no need for pattern matching.
  • They developed chemical-free ways of securing their carpet, replacing glues containing dangerous VOCs.
  • They collaborated with other innovators to develop ways to recover materials from old carpets and turn them into new carpets.  They can now divert other manufacturers’ product from landfill and turn it into new carpet.

When you communicate on sustainability, do you include specific, detailed case studies that are relevant to your target audience?    Do you include some questions or exercises to encourage listeners to explore what might work in their environment?

“What Else?” Elements

Dynamic learners learn by doing, and then explore what else they can do with what they’ve learned.  So experiential explorations like “imagine what you might do” will engage them as well as pragmatic learners.   Also explore the question “What can this become?”   Interface is a fascinating example because they began as a company that turned petro-chemicals into carpet.  Their ongoing explorations include:

  • Researching how to produce carpet from renewable resources instead of petro-chemicals.
  • Reducing transport impacts of both their products and their people towards zero.
  • Exploring the social dimensions of sustainability with workplace safety programs, equal opportunity programs and others both at home and abroad.
  • Developing consulting services to leverage what they’ve learned and export their better business model to other industries.

In your communication process, do you include some explorations of how else the ideas you have presented could be applied?

Now It’s Your Turn

“Confessions of a Radical Industrialist” is nearly 300 pages of fascinating reading, so this is just a sampler to explore a single 4MAT application.  If you’re into sustainable business then it’s foundation reading.   More importantly, if you’re speaking on sustainability then explore how you can maximise the impact of your communication by utilising an understanding of learning styles.  Have fun!


Leigh BakerRegenerative Business is a regenerative business coach and educator, specialising in teaching the influencing and innovation skills that lie at the heart of successful sustainability projects.