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The Corona Opportunity to Build Back Better?

March 2020, our planet is on hold. People around the world are now compelled to reflect on their daily lives, habits, and aspirations. As the machinery of our economic system was paused, we were forced to embrace our shared humanity: as human beings.

By putting people’s health and wellbeing first, we acknowledged the crucial importance of people’s safety. This has forced us to become resilient, adapt, and find appropriate solutions to safeguard our basic needs. Meanwhile we have had time to reflect on the economic incentives that have made our system so addicted to growth above all else.

The pandemic has sent a strong message about the disastrous impact of our economic priorities and business strategies. The crisis has highlighted the importance for businesses to shift towards new models that place humans, communities, and nature at the centre. The potential of creating a new positive narrative based on these three essential components -powered through partnerships- offers a powerful opportunity to deeply transform the world we live in. This systemic approach, at once providing a global perspective on the current changes we face as a collective, leads us to adopt regenerative systems that honour and support our place within the ecosystems we impact, and within the interconnected web of life we inhabit.

Regenerative systems are not only embedded within the economic, ecological, and social space, they are built upon relationships. Every single human on earth has a role to play by caring, sharing, and acting — and this applies to human-led organisations, and businesses too. We are experiencing a shift from old power paradigms to new power models that favour the many over the few. Ensuring that all human beings, organisations, and the businesses of tomorrow are equipped with the right incentives, inspiration, and tools to act aligned with their values is not a wish, but a necessity.

As with every crisis, there resides within an opportunity for transformation. The COVID19 pandemic has demonstrated the capability of individuals to be resilient, create, lead, and foster positive change. It gave us a strong signal about the tremendous opportunity we have to put humanity at the core of our aspirations. Working habits have quickly evolved with remote working sessions, giving us an insight of the real importance of self and others care. Business leaders have adopted new principles and adapted to the context with engaging measures giving new positive impact objectives to their initiatives.

Changing this paradigm through the lens of co-creation, co-operation, and partnerships is the only solution for us to thrive and flourish without overstressing the planet’s health. In fact, for the first time in our collective history, the need for co-operation, across silos, industries, governments and bioregions has become critical to our survival as a species. The small window we have to take meaningful action is limited to the next ten years. Yet a regenerative economy is within our grasp. The pandemic has shown us that we can switch off the system, we didn’t know we could do that before. What is more, if we can pause the system, we can also create a new one afresh.

The pandemic represents a meaningful opportunity for change as well as a serious warning of the potentially disastrous impact to come if we do not act now. Writing in the Financial Times, the author and activist Arundhati Roy remarked that the pandemic was a ‘portal’. Pandemics in history have helped change the course of history and ushered in periods of great change.

Late stage capitalism is in its final phases, having far outlived its sell by date and its usefulness. While the sustainability era was intended to curb capitalism’s worst excesses, and offer a just transition, the movement has in effect been largely co-opted by some actors and has only delayed the inevitable demise of a system that has become too unwieldy for our small planet, already on the brink. Who, twenty years ago, could have imagined that both the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef would be nearing an irreversible tipping point? Our economic system has become a major threat to Nature’s long term viability.

As we look to the future, we must now pivot towards an economy that puts both people and the planet’s health at the centre. This economy can only be regenerative. We can no longer continue to bargain with Nature. We have to work in partnership with Her. That means redrawing what it means to be a business and putting regenerative principles at the core. Given what we know, how can businesses afford to not be carbon neutral or circular or beyond? The pandemic has provided us with a unique opportunity to choose what is essential and non-essential. Today, as we build back, we must support those businesses that are building a regenerative future. That’s why we created Positive, the social enterprise with a mission to promote the regenerative economy and the businesses of the future.

Tomorrow is a story that has yet to be written. It is only by dreaming big and coming together to find new ways to collaborate that we can build a better world full of promise with social and environmental justice at the core.


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