Giving Compass' Take:
- The book, Working to Restore: Harnessing the Power of Regenerative Business to Heal the World highlights businesses that go beyond greenwashing promises.
- Greenwashing and other marketing tactics can confuse consumers into thinking businesses are making progress on social impact goals and milestones. How can social entrepreneurs hold each other accountable for accuracy and transparency?
- Read about legal action taken against greenwashing.
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In over a decade writing about mission-driven companies and changemakers for various media outlets, I didn’t see any business books that gathered their stories—across industries and geographies—to paint a broader picture of a global movement through a journalistic lens. Many business books were led by theory of industry jargon, but I wanted to write something that would engage young people passionate about climate issues, rising entrepreneurs, and consumers, as well as industry veterans who are seeking inspiration from one another.
Working to Restore: Harnessing the Power of Regenerative Business to Heal the World aims to do just that, exploring solutions-oriented businesses in food, fashion, travel, health, finance, and energy to suggest that these concepts are not restricted to any one industry. And in the last five years, I’ve begun to see a shift: more and more greenwashing. To break through that noise, I am honing in on companies that were going beyond surface-level sustainability. In fact, most of the entrepreneurs I spoke to were not a fan of the term anymore. They felt it didn’t encapsulate the depths of their businesses. Instead, they were keen on building a regenerative model for business. For that reason, this excerpt explores the evolution of mission-driven companies, why sustainability isn’t enough anymore, and what this regenerative era could look like.
Business is a powerhouse that can steer the economy and consumer behavior, and the impact all that has on Mother Earth, in a direction for the better. Business plays a major role in social and environmental problems: businesses employ people, source materials from remote corners of the globe, and move millions of people and tons of cargo around daily. The business community can put us on a different path if we support the type of businesses that prize restoration over growth. The pandemic compounded this reality for us: while working from home had its comforts, it also led to thousands of Americans quitting their jobs, seeking change, thinking about the preciousness of time and what they want to do with their waking hours and healthy days—ultimately, trying to understand their role in this larger web of capitalism.
We have seen the results of business that is fixated on ROI (return on investment) and providing wealth to an elite group, its shareholders. Many people are fed up with this approach. Will it always be necessary to be a global force in order to be profitable? Will it always be necessary to build supply chains that favor only the few at the top to make the business a so-called successful venture? Certainly not.
As I have been reporting on the evolution of this business landscape, I’ve seen it mature from the simple idea of “buy one, give one”—a model that utilizes philanthropy by giving away free product for every purchase—to a more nuanced examination of business, leading to the rise of the B corporation, the benefit corporation, the purpose-driven economy. This is all part of a new lexicon and is a real challenge to the conventional thinking that business is primarily a profit-seeking enterprise.
Read the full article about greenwashing by Esha Chhabra at Stanford Social Innovation Review.