Published 1 year ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Bill McDonough and Sustainable Brands CEO KoAnn Skrzyniarz | Sustainable Brands
This week at SB’22 San Diego, over 1K sustainability practitioners have converged to share insights, tools, inspiration and opportunities for collaboration with the goal of building a regenerative future for all. On opening night, luminaries from a variety of disciplines reminded attendees the importance of taking a breath and opening your mind.
The triple threat of the pandemic, climate change, and systemic social injustice
is a reckoning for business … and an unprecedented opportunity. A critical mass
of public support for social and environmental progress set the context for
thousands of participants in the SB’22 San
opening night plenary, which dove into how businesses must accelerate the
journey toward a regenerative future — but first, by slowing down.
This year, the United Nations met for the first time since the onset of the
pandemic, but it was anything but a joyful reunion. Against a backdrop of
catastrophic climate change and the existential threat to democracy the world
over, it was not light table fare for the dabbling starry-eyed sustainability
Changemakers, freedom fighters, and justice seekers are standing up to
emboldened voices from the right, trying to hold on to the old-world order. How
can we maintain hope and motivation in the face of inertia — or, even worse,
By recentering and accelerating.
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Vincent Avanzi & Virginie Helias | Image credit: Sustainable Brands
Humanity's toolbox has two tools all should reach for regularly: Improved
mindsets to better leverage knowledge and collective experience for a better
future. After a calming and moving opening by poet Vincent Avanzi and Procter & Gamble's Virginie Helias set the tone for the keynotes to come, Bill
McDonough — co-author of the groundbreaking book, Cradle to Cradle and
Chief Executive at McDonough Innovation — reminded the packed plenary hall that
nature doesn’t have a design problem; people do. Humanity must use nature as a
mentor. Nature is tolerant, regenerative and hopeful — a direct
contradiction to the extractive, winner-takes-all model of modern capitalism and
our fundamentally flawed approach to the way we design most things.
“I hear people use language that frightens children,” McDonough said. “We tell
our children we're designing for the end of life.”
He also drove home the foolishness of the business world’s focus on achieving
“net zero” — which is not only woefully
for the enormity of the calling, it essentially means humanity gives the next
generation nothing. McDonough called for intergenerational stewardship that
excites, recenters, restores and regenerates within the limits of a shared
planet. He asserted that we must also change our vernacular, as "sustainability"
means more of the status quo — the planet and its inhabitants need restoration;
and that can only happen through regenerative
Jo Confino | Image credit: Sustainable Brands
For leadership coach, journalist and Zen mindfulness practitioner Jo
Confino, “good” stems from
how people show up.
“It's not what we say that's important,” he said. “It's not what we do that's
important, nor the thoughts we have that's important; it’s how we show up in the
world and embody presence, because that's what people trust.”
If people can't make peace with their own suffering, how can they care about the
suffering of the world? Confino asked. Even amidst the sustainability movement,
those trying to save the world often behave in the same ways that created the
problems — seeking positions of honor and prestige.
To borrow the title of his podcast, “The way out is
in” — and the way in is to recognize
suffering. Through addressing and learning to move through our own pain comes
the potential for regeneration. He closed by reminding us that, while the
feel (and are) urgent, a frantic approach to addressing them won’t serve us — we
must embrace the theme of this year’s event and slow down to recenter, in order
Janine Benyus & KoAnn Skrzyniarz | Image credit: Christian Yonkers
Biomimicry pioneer Janine
continued the theme as she recounted the story of her decades-long journey
toward restoring her once-degraded ranch land in Montana. What she and many
others have done in natural landscapes, she and her teams at Biomimicry
3.8 and the Biomimicry
Institute now support the business world in applying
the genius of nature and its self-healing systems to their operations.
A consciously built world is one thing, but biomimicry leads to an entirely
different way of thinking: Rather than the business world’s current, myopic
focus on reducing impacts on carbon or water, for example, our approach should
be about healing and regenerating whatever landscape, supply chain or other
system that we touch.
“The shift is for us to become a generous species,” she said.
Dr. Christian Busch | Image credit: Christian Yonkers
But regeneration and other ways we measure success don’t happen by accident: The
most successful people intuitively cultivate a sense of “good luck” — what
author and NYU professor Dr. Christian Busch calls a serendipitous
mindset and approach to leadership.
“Serendipity is about making accidents meaningful, and creating more meaningful
accidents,” he said.
He shared examples of how people can be put in the same situations yet
experience different outcomes, based on their perceptions. Looking for and
expecting serendipity is key in creating regenerative experiences from the
doldrums of daily life. The most meaningful conversations, Busch said, can come
from unexpected events such as spilling coffee on a stranger and turning a
potentially embarrassing moment into an opportunity to connect and explore new
ideas and perspectives.
Cultivating serendipity is the difference between making that spilled coffee a
source of embarrassment and a source of transformation. Busch encouraged
attendees to explore this open mindset and bring it to the business of saving
Published Oct 18, 2022 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Christian is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.