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Make→Shift is part of TrendWatching's Free Trend Updates. Each monthly issue examines one cross-industry movement no brand can afford to ignore.
We answer 'why now?' and 'what next?' and provide examples of innovations that are already acting on this trend. With the aim of inspiring you to think up your own opportunities and solutions.
All in a six-minute read.
Imagine a world in which products and services don’t just relieve the guilt of climate-conscious consumers, but actually put the brakes on climate change. Some distant utopia this is not: regenerative methods that conserve and rehabilitate our planet are taking root across the globe, and progressive brands are joining the movement. Welcome to the age of TERRAPY, in which consumerism goes hand-in-hand with climate activism.
Name a brand that hasn’t launched a range of sustainable products: it’s harder than you think. Carbon neutrality? Been there, done that. Plenty of progress has yet to be made, but for a large portion of consumers, sustainability has become a given and has lost some of its aspirational sheen. Which is why regenerative is fast eclipsing sustainable. In a survey of 3,000 consumers in the US, 80% said they preferred ‘regenerative’ as a term, with many of them finding ‘sustainable’ too passive (ReGen, 2020). So: where to start? Look no further than right under your feet — the soil.
As we continue to exhaust the earth’s natural resources, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that soil is paying a price. According to WWF, half of the planet’s topsoil has been eroded by unsustainable farming practises over the last 150 years. Losing our topsoil means losing the natural means to grow 95% of our food, which is a daunting reality. While regenerative can be defined in a variety of ways, it comes down to systems that enhance natural resources instead of depleting them. For farming, that means prioritizing soil health by using cover crops and crop rotation, ensuring that grazing is highly managed, and not tilling. It’s all about adopting practices that mimic natural ecological processes, both to revive degraded farmland and to sequester carbon in the soil.
The benefits of TERRAPY won’t just be felt by the earth, but also by farmers. One study indicated that regenerative agriculture could be 78% more profitable than conventional farming. Whether for profit, purpose or both, large corporates have started getting their hands dirty. Danone, the French food giant, is allocating USD 20 million to help farms across North America implement regenerative practices, while General Mills has committed to one million acres of regenerative agriculture, and luxury group Kering just announced that their new Regenerative Fund for Nature will transform one million hectares to regenerative over the next five years.
Regenerative’s true riches may lie in the capacity to sequester carbon in soil. By adopting regenerative cropping methods, 0.2 to 1.4 tons of carbon can be stored per hectare per year. A recent white paper by the Rodale Institute suggests that we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions if all global cropland and pasture would be managed using regenerative organic farming methods.
Increasingly, the ripples of TERRAPY are being felt across industries, from fashion brands to travel operators. As usual, Patagonia (😊) is blazing trails, not only pledging to source 100% regenerative cotton and hemp by 2030, but brewing a climate-positive beer on the side, too. Check out these cross-industry initiatives:
Travel: Tourism New Zealand plans to turn its attention away from economic growth and towards bettering the health of its communities and environment by actively promoting slow travel, pairing tours with tree planting and introducing schemes to protect marine habitats.
Work: Factory as a Forest is a methodology devised by Interface, a zero-emission flooring company based in the US. It provides a blueprint for how a modern factory can positively impact the environment, for example through carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling.
Events: IMEX, a UK-based events management company, is leading a ‘Regenerative Revolution’ in the events industry. It recently developed a framework to help event producers design out waste and pollution, and focus instead on rejuvenating natural systems and communities.
While sustainability has often been about limiting harm to our planet, consumers are eager to put their purchasing power into efforts that can actually repair and restore. In the regenerative economy, a t-shirt can become proof of healing the soil, and a bottle of mescal can directly contribute to greening the desert. TERRAPY lets consumers rehabilitate the planet, one purchase at a time, and purpose-driven brands can lead the way.
Lush’s Cork Pot isn’t just 100% biodegradable: each 35 g piece of packaging removes over 33 times its weight (1.2 kg) in carbon dioxide. A portion of profits from each pot goes towards regenerating native cork oak forests in southern Portugal, where the cork is harvested. The pots are even transported by sailboat. Clean the air, save the world and look great while doing it.
A climate-positive patty? Yep. Beef has (understandably) developed a poor reputation among the climate-conscious, but change is afoot. Launched by UK-based The Ethical Butcher, GROUND’s burgers and buns are sourced from regenerative farms with healthy soils and carbon-negative credentials. Could initiatives like this be scaled up to produce beyond-sustainable meat for the masses?
Nori is an online marketplace that lets farmers get paid for storing carbon in soil. They receive Nori tokens, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency, for every metric ton of carbon dioxide they sequester. Those tokens can be converted into 'Carbon Removal Certificates' which can then be sold to businesses looking to offset their carbon emissions. It’s a win-win-win, for farmers, buyers and the planet.
This Dutch cookie brand takes a bite-sized approach to regenerative farming. For every box of Farm Brothers cookies sold, the company converts a cookie-sized piece (12 cm2) of degraded farmland in Flevoland into organic acreage, forever. The exact size is demarcated on the box. We assume Farm Brothers wouldn't mind other brands copying their concept. Partner with an agricultural land trust, and you might be able to launch your own snack-sized, soil-saving product in 2021.
The Regen Registry gives farmers across America and Europe a platform to sell their ecosystem services to buyers across the globe. The concept is simple. Farmers register projects online — anything from agroforestry to crop rotation — and buyers purchase carbon credits with which they can sponsor those projects. Investors receive periodic updates by email, enabling them to measure their positive impact.
“What if renewable energy was not just sustainable but also regenerative?” In collaboration with White Oak Pastures, Silicon Ranch — one of the largest solar power producers in the US — is currently working on plans to combine holistic planned livestock grazing with 2,400 acres of solar panels in Southwest Georgia. The benefits? Expect carbon sinks, restored biodiversity and thriving soil, to name a few.
Add Kiss The Ground to your Netflix watch list for a cinematic deep dive into regenerative agriculture.
Join ReGenFriends’ #BillionPersonMovement to support regenerative producers and be kept up to date with the latest goings-on from around the world.
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From "The Fight for Facts" to the new "Hands Off" economy, our previous Make→Shift issues provide a cornucopia of purpose-driven insights, plus actions you can take on the trends that matter.
General Assembly x TrendWatching
Livia Fioretti will be presenting her predictions for the decade ahead at General Assembly Singapore’s The 2030 Movement. Pop it in your diary: Wednesday 22nd September, 4pm SGT. Sign up here.
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Written? Audio? Audio-visual, perhaps? We’ve released our latest issue, Make→Shift: IN-FLUENCERS, as a snappy little video. For the full interactive read-through, head to our YouTube channel.