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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Becoming a Regenerative Enterprise:
Stories from the Field

At Biomimicry 3.8’s third annual Project Positive Summit, participants shared progress and groundbreaking new tools for raising the bar on ‘sustainability’ and demonstrating what regenerative design looks like in practice.

Within the ponderosa pine forest just outside Missoula, Montana, a group of corporate change agents recently gathered for the 3rd annual Project Positive Summit led by Biomimicry 3.8.

This was not your standard corporate gathering — no boardrooms, no PowerPoints or checklists to satisfy. Instead, representatives from HOK, Interface, Jacobs, Microsoft, Rothy’s and others joined B3.8 to collaborate on how best to accelerate the adoption and scaling of the nature-inspired, regenerative business strategies and practices currently underway within their organizations and beyond. The group celebrated successes, reflected on lessons learned from the past year, and planned for what’s next.

The unique, collective problem-solving that happens at the Summit with both Project Positive members and B3.8’s integrated service provider and partner (ISP) team is centered around the shared purpose of Project Positive: raising the bar on “sustainability,” demonstrating what it looks like to design regeneratively, and accelerating success through collaboration and storytelling.

“This is a pre-competitive space,” explained Chris Allen, Jacobs’ Global Director for Net Zero + Nature Positive Solutions. “It’s really about building a future where all boats can rise.”

A ripple of momentum

The stories shared at this year’s gathering demonstrated that energy and momentum around the work is rippling through member organizations and beyond.

“Progress has been incredible in terms of what the teams have been able to actually activate in the last year,” reflected Nicole Miller, Managing Director at Biomimicry 3.8.

Through close collaboration with the ISP teams, Project Positive empowers its members to tap into a deep bench of subject-matter experts as they establish, design and integrate nature-positive strategies across their organizations. This approach enables a seamless and adaptive process to emerge that meets each client wherever they are in their journey.

“Project Positive has been an essential resource for me throughout the process of driving nature positive designs at Microsoft,” shared Kaitlin Chuzi, Director of Biomimicry at Microsoft. “There’s so much support and willingness to collaborate in this group. It’s really helped elevate our work to more forward-thinking and surprising places.”

And with nature’s intelligence informing the entire process through the practice of biomimicry, the resulting solutions reap multiple benefits for organizations and the communities they touch.

“With 3.8 billion years of R&D experience, I can’t think of a better partner at the design table than nature,” said Sean Quinn, HOK’s Director of Regenerative Design. “In the process, we’ve uncovered a number of innovative solutions that enable facilities to become attractive to the communities that are giving us license to operate in their backyard.”

In one project, the ISP team partnered with a Fortune 100 tech leader to reimagine the way its facilities integrate with the surrounding ecosystem — resulting in building designs that filter air, regenerate clean water back into the community, and support biodiversity for miles around the campus: “People want to be connected to these wonderful environmental systems,” Quinn added, “and it’s helping the permitting teams get ahead of emerging regulatory requirements around biodiversity.”

Storytelling: Sharing the whole journey

During the Summit, the group agreed that sharing stories externally not only about projects but also the journey itself is critical to bringing others along and adopting this work at scale. Each Project Positive member company’s unique experience in navigating the ups and downs of transitioning to a regenerative enterprise has value for others inside and outside their organization.

For a company such as Interface, which has been using biomimicry for 20+ years — its recent transition to move from Mission Zero to Climate Take Back™ puts it on the cutting edge of demonstrating what it means for an enterprise to act regeneratively.

“It's really moving us in the direction of having a positive impact, toward actively designing the future we want; rather than just saying we want to be less bad to the point of zero — because that actually isn’t enough,” explained Mikhail Davis, Director of Technical Sustainability at Interface.

Others are just getting started. Jacobs not only engages in Project Positive as an integrated service provider but is embracing the journey to becoming a regenerative enterprise as a member — navigating what “regenerative” means for a service company.

“We're really trying to get towards the positive framework, we want to transcend doing less bad,” Allen reflected about the firm’s own journey. “We want to drive positive benefits across our entire organization and with our clients.”

Jacobs Principal Megan Holder added, “That means we’re in the learning process as to ‘what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and what are we changing?’ And I think it’s important for us to tell the story; so people understand that it’s not perfect on day one, but we’re all headed there together.”

As a tech company, the journey to positive impact at Microsoft includes everything from connecting data in the cloud to being a force for tangible, positive outcomes and impact on the ground.

“It’s inspiring to reflect on how far we’ve come in the last year,” Chuzi reflected. “Just at Microsoft, we've had several initiatives that have broken ground and moved forward. But we’re not the only ones. We’ve seen a lot of development — not just in the projects but also, in the tools and methods.”

Facilitating positive impact at scale

Chuzi is referring to one of the most exciting developments coming out of the Project Positive collaboration this year: the advancement of the Ecosystem Intelligence (EI) platform developed by EcoMetrix Solutions Group (EMX), a Project Positive ISP.

Responding to a need identified at last year’s Summit for tools that empower organizations to apply this work at scale, EMX — with the support of Project Positive members — evolved its existing, robust suite of ecosystem-performance tools into the EI platform to support anyone anywhere to understand their impact on the lands, waters and communities they touch through their own operations and beyond. The EI tools support early-stage planning and budgeting; evaluating design scenarios; and, in the future, risk assessment. Gathering and monitoring data from the tool can support target-setting, tracking and monitoring performance over time, regulatory compliance and reporting frameworks.

“Holistically assessing the ecological performance of a site and the impact of project designs used to take weeks — if not months. The EI platform has enabled us to redefine this process, achieving efficiency that delivers lasting impact,” shared Kenna Halsey, founder of EI. “With the EI screening module, you can understand baseline performance in a matter of minutes; and then, get into the design module to see how different solutions can change your performance. Now companies can go into project planning, the permitting process, or a regulatory process with an understanding of where to focus resources to get the most impact.”

“To think of what a difference we can make. We now have measurable benchmarks to bring to the table to say, ‘this is what nature is doing’ and the tools to see how close we can get to that benchmark,” Chuzi reflected. “That’s really an incredible leap to make in a year.”

A positive future

The work of Project Positive members is demonstrating that organizations can be a driving force for a regenerative future that benefits business, communities and ecosystems. Participants left the Summit excited about the possibilities ahead and a clearer picture of what will be required to accelerate progress over the next year. And with new Project Positive partners including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and True North Collective, the collaborative is eager to build on this year’s momentum and new capabilities to expand the ability of organizations to link strategy and product design decisions with tangible positive impact on the ground.

As a newcomer to the work of Project Positive, Saskia van Gendt — (now former) Head of Sustainability at Rothy’s — was excited not only about the potential to quantify the ecosystem benefits of product design decisions in supply chains; but the ideas shared at the Summit triggered a new way of thinking about opportunities to deliver positive impact that had her asking, “How can we use our supply chains to actually benefit [the ecosystems they impact] and improve them over time?”

“There’s so much vitality that comes from this group,” van Gendt shared. “Everyone is speaking the same language, but from so many different spheres. True to its name, there’s so much positivity in what we can do together.”

Learn more about our work towards a regenerative future:

  • By bringing your challenges to the Project Positive table

  • Download our self-assessment to understand which of your projects could benefit from our 4-step process — the Positive Performance Methodology.

  • Learn more from our case study with Interface on the regenerative design revolution

Main article image: Participants take a walk during the third annual Project Positive Summit | Front, from right to left: Biomimicry 3.8's Rachel Hahs, Interface's Liz Minne, Ellen MacArthur Foundation's (now B3.8's) Casey Rowland, Appalachian State University's Lee Ball and Interface's Mikhail Davis.