Tag Archives: biomimicry

7 design principles for Regenerative Business

I got seriously interested in sustainability years ago, during post-graduate studies.  I was fortunate to be introduced  through  great books like “Natural Capitalism”, “Cradle to Cradle” and “Biomimicry”. 

Along with  a mass of detail and lots of “reasons why” sustainability was important,  I found a set of  straightforward strategies that challenge out-of-date 20th century assumptions about the “how” of doing business.   I went looking for a book that summarised them in straightforward business language, but I couldn’t find one.  (So I wrote  one.)

Design principles for a Regenerative Economy

The fundamental design principles for a regenerative economy seem to boil down to the following 7 challenges to common business assumptions:

  1. Everything is a service: challenges our ways of thinking on how we make and supply our customers. The more we know about what customers value in a product (it’s “service”), the more flexibility we have to design regenerative ways to deliver it.
  2. There are no wastes: challenges implicit assumptions that un-usable waste is acceptable or desirable.
  3. Design for total safety: challenges the need to use hazardous materials and our capability to control dangerous effluents.
  4. Design for remanufacture: challenges one-way thinking by demanding that we design materials and processes around the reality of our closed-loop ecosystem.
  5. Use LOTS less: challenges incremental-only improvements, proposing reductions to one-quarter (Factor 4) and one-tenth (Factor 10) of current resource usage as stretch goals to shift thinking about what’s possible.
  6. Use/copy natural processes: puts a focus on the wealth of design solutions available to us – and that most of them have organic, room temperature process solutions.
  7. Think small, local and smart: challenges “heroic” thinking that big is better and that there can be “one size fits all” supply models.

Using the principles…

While the principles aren’t a silver-bullet ‘answer’ they provide an important framework for making in a shift in business thinking.  They form a new form of common-sense  in the face of the rapid shift in environmental circumstances in which business is now done.   Increasingly, they’re being proven to not only be practical, but also very profitable.

They’re deeply grounded in business development and supply chain thinking.  They’re not “everything you need to know” – however they’re a good start to the exciting journey of regenerative business.

Essentially, the principles are intended to spark the process of thinking differently.  They’re not rules, they’re not standards to evaluate success or failure.   They’re ways to put attention on the assumptions we make about how business is done so we can explore exciting, profitable new ways to do business.

Describe what you DO want…

If you don’t want what’s happening at the moment, then have an alternative!

The good news is that there is one, and the better news is that there are proven win/win/win strategies that will enable many businesses to make good money, improve their eco-systems and build their surrounding communities.    

If you don’t know what they are, it’s time you did.  Get reading, find your local CleanTech network, get online.   If all you can do is rage at “selfish business people” and “evil capitalists” then are you really helping?   Or are you just generating resistance?


Leigh Baker is a regenerative business  coach and author of “The Deep Green Profit Handbook”.  She works with sustainability practitioners to maximise their effectiveness as innovators and communicators.

WANTED: Strategic Sustainability Manager

I saw an interesting-looking role advertised recently: Sustainability Strategy Manager.  It looked like it could be interesting – but when I read it, it wasn’t what I’d hoped.  The role reported into Marketing and seemed to be more to do with external communication than with building strategic sustainability capability within the business.

Describing what you DO want

When I see something that disappoints me, I like to take some time to work out what it is I wanted to see.  So here’s my description of the job I’d hoped it would be – the work of a Strategic Sustainability Manager.  It’s probably a figment of my imagination – but what  could be different if it was implemented across our  major listed companies!


A publicly  listed company requires a Strategic Sustainability Manager to work across the Asia-Pacific region. The primary focus of this role will be to assist the CEO, executive team  and board to understand the range of emerging business opportunities developing from sustainability and regenerative thinking and to assist them in setting strategic directions for the business over the coming decade. 

Reporting to the Chairman of the Board, responsibilities will include:

  • Educate the board and senior executives on the straightforward principles and proven practices of regenerative thinking which underpin profitable long-term  sustainability strategies.
  • Develop plans for building resource and life-cycle literacy across the organisation.
  • Develop plans for building innovation and communication skills across the organisation.
  • Work with key supply chain players internally and externally to understand up-stream and down-stream opportunities of strategic sustainability and regenerative thinking practices.

Desired Skills & Experience

A deep knowledge of regenerative business thinking and strategies is critical, as is the ability to communicate it to senior executives.  The expected knowledge base includes service-based economics, closed loop capitalism and biomimicry-based design. 

Candidates will be required to demonstrate familiarity with and experience of concepts such as:

  • Product-of-Service business strategies.
  • Life Cycle Analysis and Design for the Environment.
  • Design for Re-Manufacture.
  • Biomimicry implementations.
  • Factor 4 and Factor 10 resource usage reductions.

Key skills and knowledge for success in this role will be:

  • A deep knowledge of the foundations of sustainable business design, including but not limited to “Natural Capitalism“, “Cradle to Cradle“, “The Natural Step” and “Biomimicry“.
  • An understanding of key factors important in building and sustaining successful business strategy.
  • Facilitation and communication skills to explain regenerative thinking and the business opportunities of sustainability in strategic terms.
  • The ability to build relationships based on integrity and trust.

Successful candidates are expected to have:

  • Formal qualifications in human communication, business development and innovation adoption.
  • A proven deep understanding of successful regenerative business strategy and practice.
  • Excellent coaching, facilitation and relationship-building skills.

As I said in my opening remarks, this isn’t a real job (that I know of) …   yet.  And imagine the difference it could make!