By Natalie Slawinski. Photo credit: UVic Photo Services. Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Business Class magazine.


There is no question that businesses must step up and help tackle the big problems facing our planet. Regenerative businesses are the future—not just because they can boost economies but because they do so by reinvigorating ecosystems and societies.

Taking regeneration from a buzzword to action requires a fundamental shift in how we understand the relationship between business and the systems in which it is embedded. It also requires specific action plans to turn these intentions into deeds.

What does regeneration mean to you?
If our world is to thrive instead of deteriorate, we need to change our mindsets away from reductionist ways of thinking to regenerative approaches that rely on holistic “both/and” mindsets.

What is regeneration in business?
For businesses, regeneration means rejecting extractive approaches and aiming instead for net-positive environmental, social and economic outcomes.

At Gustavson, our Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation (CSSI)’s new vision centres on regeneration and implores us “to give more to the world than we take.” Our advisory board is made up of local leaders whose organizations and businesses aim to foster regeneration. In a world that cries out for repair, the “same old, same old” just won’t do.

Where can we learn more about regeneration and its potential to transform business—and the world?

  • Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever and author of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take, offers a question business leaders can ask themselves, “Is this world better off because your business is in it?”
  • I’ve learned so much about holistic regenerative approaches from Wendy Smith, professor and co-author of Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Tensions to Solve your Toughest Problems and from Zita Cobb, founder of Shorefast, a charity that’s using social business to revitalize the community of Fogo Island, Newfoundland.
  • I am inspired by Paul Hawken’s Project Regeneration and his simple description of a complex idea: “Regeneration puts life at the centre of every action and decision.”