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Regenerative capitalism: Legit model or just BS?

There has to be a better way

I’d never heard of John Fullerton or regenerative capitalism before. Back in 2001, John had resigned from a 20 year career at JPMorgan and simply wasn’t sure what was next for him. Disillusioned, he set to learning more about models relating to balanced social, economic and ecological health. Then came 9/11 and shortly after that very dark day he said,

“What followed was years of searching. I was searching for how to make sense of a world that I could no longer explain to my children. At some level, I was also searching for my own purpose in it all.”

I hear you John. I hear you.

Fast forward to me, Danno, founder of Starloop.com. It’s 2012 and according to Nostradamus and Mayan calendar types, the end is nigh. Rather than sweat sky fall, I’m spending rare free time at the beach watching my daughter playing on the shore. Right there and then I have one of those moments. You know the ones, where you’re just hands down galactically grateful. I’m grateful for a beautiful moment in the south of France. Grateful to have sun on my shoulders watching my daughter experience ocean waves with such delight.

It’s a batshit crazy world

But I am fretting about something. Even on a day that beautiful, there’s lingering discontent somewhere in the sum of molecules that comprise Me. It’s always there. Maybe it’s the same kind of disillusion that John Fullerton described having after 9/11. For me it’s largely an unease born of the relentless impact we’re all having on our home world. 24/7 we’re attacking the very systems that give us all life and unlike me, the planet never gets a day off at the beach.

A long list of planetary woe stokes my unease. NASA tells us we haven’t had this much carbon in our atmosphere for over 400,000 years and in 2013 CO2 levels exceeded 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history. Carbon in the atmosphere is just the start of our problems. Our material progress has come at the cost of filthy lakes and rivers, toxic fish you can’t eat, oceans filling up with plastic, forests being industrially decimated, temperatures rising, ice caps melting and a biosphere we’re dumping greenhouse gases into like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s a completely batshit crazy system and rather than reach for anti-depressants, I just had to know … is there a way out of this psychotic behaviour?

Is Regenerative Capitalism even possible?

I wanted to know: Is it economically, socially and otherwise viable for our consumerism to be part of the solution to this massive mother of all problems? Is it possible to use our unquenchable consumption to relentlessly restore our damaged biosphere? 

Or is all this just magical thinking so I can get my warm and fuzzies before our self inflicted end is upon us and Nostradamus’ followers get the last laugh? I wanted answers. So started at square one and asked:

  • Why can’t everyday transactions have a positive benefit to the biosphere?” and
  • What does it actually cost to put some natural capital back into our biosphere?” and
  • Is anyone already doing this stuff?”

It’s worth noting that rather than pursue academics, I grew up board riding and playing footloose with my youth so I’m coming at all this from a regular Joe’s POV. One evening I pour a beverage while Googling my face off and it turns out some of the people and companies I found started to give me hope. And more importantly, what I found started to rewire my brain for participation.

Enter Regenerative Capitalism

When you buy a car from Tesla, you’re helping “accelerate the advent of sustainable mobility” (which is Tesla’s mission.) Sustainable mobility is a worthy perk to compliment your sexy new wheels but as a mission is somewhat fuzzy and Tesla’s actual impact on transport will be forever immeasurable and debatable. Taking concepts like this a step further, I discovered brands like Ten Tree and Toms Shoe’s, whose very existence are quantifiably bound to the specific social good they champion. Brands like these have KPIs greater than just creating traditional share holder value (snore.)

When we buy apparel from Ten Tree we’re accelerating reforestation efforts (currently at over 8 million trees planted). When we buy a pair of shoes from Tom’s, they donate a pair of shoes to a kid who needs a pair (currently at over 60 million pairs of shoes given away). Relatively speaking, these results aren’t difficult to measure compared to the impact a company like Tesla will ultimately have on electrifying the auto industry.

I’m not saying these companies are perfect by any means, but I’d started discovering brands who are championing very specific causes as part of their overall strategy and identity. 

Turns out genuinely caring is pretty good for business too.

Eventually I end up at website for the Capital Institute and discover John and his work on Regenerative Capitalism. As a professional with a long career in finance, John’s take on this matter is far more sophisticated than mine will ever be. From what I can tell he makes a compelling case for a new way forward for humanity. He explores a wholistic path that isn’t just about minimizing harm (commonly referred to these days as sustainability) but about something far more exciting: Regeneration.

John B. Fullerton, regenerative capitalism

The more I learn, the more I see brands like Ten Tree and Tom’s as the profitable and optimistic vanguard of a true paradigm shift. These two brands are incredibly successful made me believe that different models of capitalism are totally viable. It’s this kind of thinking and these ideas that helped define Starloop.

Our contribution: One tree for one review

For us here at Starloop the value we bring to the world is a fast & easy way for businesses to get reputation management services. We’ve adopted regenerative capitalism at the core of our organization. Here’s how it works:

Someone leaves an online review for one of our Members (a Yelp review, a Google review, a Facebook review etc.) and we plant a tree.

It’s as simple as that. Out of all the issues out there, why are we championing trees and reforestation? I believe it’s important to champion something you believe in and care about deeply. This connects you to your Purpose (what I call vitamin P) which gives you drive. Personally, I believe strongly in reforestation efforts because without a functioning biosphere, this whole human thing we have going on here comes to an end real fast.

I believe in reforestation because trees help massively to regulate our biosphere and without healthy forests we risk another mass extinction event. From my understanding, every previous extinction event on our planet has been due to climate change. Granular data aside, I know broadly that:

  • Forests are a fundamental part of the operating system of this planet (a.k.a our biosphere)
  • We’ve deforested this planet at psychotic rate for decades
  • We continue to deforest this planet legally & illegally at a frightful pace
  • Forests at their most fundamental are the “lungs of the planet”, without them, we’re hosed
  • Planting more trees is great thing for so many social, economic and environmental reasons

Our mission here at Starloop is therefore two fold … help our Members get online reviews AND plant trees while doing so. It’s not optional, it’s part of our DNA. It defines who we are. At the time of writing this we’re at 4000 trees planted. A humble beginning to what I hope will result in lots more green space and natural habitat restored and created due to us simply conducting business as usual.

Also, more than anything, I want to look my kids in the eye and say we did our best in this crazy and insanely beautiful world to turn it all around. To tell them that in our own small way we too decided to be on the vanguard of an incredibly important turning point in human history.

Because as it turns out, protecting ourselves from ourselves is the great challenge of our generation. Here at Starloop we’re taking our first actions to be part of the solution. Will you do something too?


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