Regenerative Leadership and Business

By Kevin Boon


REAL takes a look at Regenerative Leadership and Regenerative Business which are innovative ways of thinking about leadership and business for the future. 



Back in 2013, Giles Hutchins wrote about how science alone won’t solve global challenges; that we need to attune human behaviour with the wider world. In a Guardian article he talks about the concept of “biomimicry” which is how we can learn from nature to solve human problems. The term was coined by author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry. Hutchins argues that scientific rationalism needs to go hand-in-hand with a deeper participatory way of engaging with life: scientific, sensuous and spiritual. 

Regenerative leadership

Hutchins builds on the interconnections between human and natural systems in his and Laura Storm’s 2019 book Regenerative Leadership. The book provides a holistic and systemic framework for building prosperous and regenerative organisations. It explores a new way of leading and redesigning organisations and communities that is urgently needed; a way that addresses the interconnected stress in our workforce, ecosystems and economy. 

Sub heading

According to the authors, the need for Regenerative Leadership is driven by rising challenges. These include resource scarcity, high levels of stress in the work place, disruptive innovations, social inequality, constant competition for top talent, rapid digitisation and globalisation, mass migrations, fragile supply chains, mounting social tensions, political extremism, climate breakdown and loss of biodiversity. They describe our production systems as being based on a linear, take-make-waste approach and our financial systems based on short-term profit maximisation that ignores life and debases human integrity. Our organisational systems are dominated by hyper-competition, power-and-control hierarchies, and rising stress. 

Hutchins and Storm advocate for a new approach that values life, a new leadership logic where organisations flourish, ecosystems thrive and people feel alive. To quote from the book “Regenerative Business enriches life. It enriches ourselves, our customers, and the wider stakeholder ecosystem. Regenerative Business transforms our role and purpose, from a “what’s-in-it-for-me” approach to a mindset of collaboration, co-creativity and contribution. Regenerative Leaders bring vitality and wellbeing to all our living systems….in-so-doing, we wake up to what it really means to be fully human.”

Regenerative Leadership is a book in three parts. The first considers the root cause of our current crisis. It looks at the separation between human and nature, the masculine and feminine, inner and outer and left / right sides of the brain. It analyses how these separations have affected our inner and outer ecosystems. It also explores the signs of a new leadership era emerging. 

The second part of the book takes us through the authors’ DNA model of Regenerative Leadership by first diving deep into what we can learn from the richness of living systems and then translating this into new principles for design, leadership and lifestyle.

Part three offers concrete tools and practices to analyse an organisation’s so-called Regenerative DNA and our inner and outer ecosystems. It seeks to answer questions readers may have upon embarking on their Regenerative Leadership journey and ideas for practices individuals can start implementing.

Regenerative leadership in practice

A regenerative approach can be extended to business. Carol Sanford’s 2018 book ‘The Regenerative Business’ looked at how we can redesign work, cultivate human potential and achieve extraordinary outcomes. 

The World Economic Forum sees Regenerative Business as a roadmap for rapid change. At the core of the movement is a focus on systems thinking to protect, restore and replenish both human capital and natural resources.  WEF refers to Regenerative Business as a hybrid approach incorporating local solutions scaled globally. 

Responsible forestry is an area where the principles of Regenerative Business are working to create the right market incentives and trade practices while ensuring local communities are positively impacted today and tomorrow. Beyond simply managing forests, a regenerative approach also seeks to enhance resilience through local biodiversity conservation and procurement practices that restore and replenish.