Globalisation has been defined by a paradoxical duality of connectedness and social degradation; rogue corporations acting in pure self-interest have constructed an inhuman global system of profit extraction with no regard for People or Places. This has stifled economic development in the Global South and continues to threaten the Earth’s vital ecosystems upon which we all depend. The winners and losers are clear: the top 1% of households now own 43% of global wealth, and we have lost 60% of wildlife in the past 50 years. The mindless adherence to “what is good for business (i.e. profits) is good for people” has had awful consequences for humanity and nature, but it does not have to be this way.
A transition towards a Glocal Economy can heal the damage caused by this Winner-Takes-All philosophy, redesigning global business networks under principles such as Value-For-All, Empowered Participation (subsidiarity), Collective Action, and Honoring the Specificity of Bioregions. Adopting practical solutions conjured by revolutionary thinkers like Schumacher, Raworth, Rokstrom, and Norberg-Hodge, and guided by the 5 Ps of the Positive Compass, we are building a Glocalisation process which provides real solutions grounded in the mantra of “Think Global, Act Local”. Respect for the planetary boundaries underpins this Regenerative philosophy which emphasises Purpose, and respects Planet, People, Partners and Places.
As a leading economist, Schumacher foresaw the errors and future consequences of modern economic thinking, namely the obsession with GDP and what he called “gigantism”; he rightly points out that limitless growth on a finite planet is a myth, meanwhile increased production of goods offers no real solution to the social and environmental crises we face today, rather it exacerbates them. Some of his ideas include collective ownership, “production by the masses” not mass production, intermediate technology for rural communities in developing countries, creativity in man’s work, and a rethinking of what education should be.
Environmental scientists have developed sophisticated models mapping out the Earth’s ecological limits; the pinnacle being Raworth’s Doughnut Model and Rokstrom’s Planetary Boundaries. The former illustrates a safe space for humanity to operate: in possession of all the resources necessary to lead a decent quality of life, but within ecological limits which can pose serious danger to the Earth’s ecosystems. With a detailed model, Rokstrom articulates Earth’s nine planetary boundaries which must be respected in order to achieve sustainable development.
Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer in the localization movement, constructing frameworks which see community building as the key to reversing social and environmental degradation. With a focus on root causes, her organisation Local Futures is harnessing education through various channels, bringing activists, businesses and communities together to revitalise local economies.
The Local Factor
Today’s system is characterized by separation. While the current generation of multinational corporations (MNCs) have no allegiance to Place, operating with an extractive and exploitative mindset and causing serious environmental harm, SMEs are a product of their environment, hence they possess an unrivalled awareness and loyalty to their surroundings. This local identity, fused with the manageable size of their operations, allows SMEs to maximise their positive impact at the community level. The qualitative nature of this impact cannot be understated, and this contrasts sharply with the failure of purely quantitative ESG metrics applied by global firms. What is more, SMEs pay their taxes. Norberg-Hodge recognises the potential for impact at the local level, highlighting to prioritise communities rather than corporate profits.
Positive Impact Companies such as Aduna perfectly exemplify the immense business opportunities associated with acting locally. The superfoods brand sprung out of the collection of unused fruit in rural areas of Africa, now providing sustainable incomes to almost 2000 women. Also, recognising the importance of Partners, Aduna teamed together with a local NGO, ORGII,in order to maximise their impact in the baobab supply chain. The brand understands the need for a rural focus regarding economic development in low-income countries, rather than a ballooning of industrial centres; a truth articulated very well by Schumacher in “Small is Beautiful”.
In this theory, lies a firm recognition that there is no sustainability without locality. Excessive centralisation of production has incalculable effects on local communities and the environment. Being carried out in the name of efficiency and “economies of scale”, large-scale projects do not offer real solutions to local issues. Daniel Christian Wahl depicts this reality in his work relating to Regenerative Cultures, offering holistic analysis into how locality in terms of ecology and economy underpin the overall health of a society. By realising the invaluable aspect of natural capital, he rejects the cold-calculated utilitarianism which has contributed to our current situation. The emphasis of bioregions ties into his enviro-economic outlook of localisation.
Local impact is all well and good, but to achieve the systemic change required for regeneration we need global cooperation. This means an overhaul of current linear supply chain dynamics which were founded on colonial-era extraction, in favour of healthier supply webs which create Value-For-All and lift others up. Regenerative sourcing is fundamental to this transformation, especially in agriculture; supply webs need to provide producers with stability and prospects for improved living standards, not create unhealthy relationships formed out of dependence. Furthermore, considering Rokstrom’s concept of planetary boundaries, firms can put their operations in a global context, allowing us to curb global emissions and take a 360 degrees approach.
As always, there are Positive Impact Companies leading the charge on this front. CHOC CHICK is an ethical cacao company that has been sourcing directly from small scale organic cocoa cooperatives in Ecuador and Peru since 2009. Their aim is to ensure there is no exploitation of people or of our planet in their supply chain, and having travelled regularly to visit their producers, they have developed close relationships with the farmers, cooperatives, cocoa collection centres and cocoa processors they source from.
The Way to Glocalisation
The Glocal Economy will be created by no other than the changemakers and pioneers driving for positive impact. Within the Positive Impact Community, changemakers can create connections, share ideas, and establish circularity. Through multiple channels, there is scope to foster financial and consumer support for PICs, realising the potential provided by ESG metrics and ethical consumption habits. Academics, media, and policymakers can create the momentum and frameworks needed to accelerate the process of Glocalisation. From the widespread abandonment of dated business models in favour of impact-driven business, we will begin to see the creation of an economy which is Regenerative by nature, empowering a global network of partners to initiate positive change at the local level.