John Elkington is a bestselling author, serial entrepreneur and leading figure in the wold of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
In 2009, he was named fourth in an international survey of the top 100 CSR leaders, after Al Gore, Barack Obama, and the late Anita Roddick. And today he joins me on Inside Ideas to talk about why we need to make capitalism regenerative.
“When I talk about capitalism I’m not, as most people would assume, talking about financial capitalism only, or physical capital,” he said, “I’m also talking about social capitalism, human capital, natural capital, intellectual capital – all these different forms.”
The founder and chief-pollinator at Volans – which takes leaders on a journey from responsibility, through resilience to regeneration, Elkington sees this holistic approach as a means to unlock a multitude of complementary wins.
“In each of these forms of capitalism, there can be individual regenerative strategies. But if you do it well, for example – in regenerating a city, part of what you’re doing is rebuilding the physical structure, but you’re also putting in educational systems, natural environment systems which helps sponge up floods and clean up the air and things like that. You’re then creating a system which is regenerative in multiple dimensions, and that is what I think increasingly we need to do.”
Elkington believes “we’re now in a period of correction” and that the world must “snap back from some of the delusional thinking” that has left the planet on the brink of collapse.
“Our economies, our societies, our politics, our biosphere, our environment, they’re all wobbling in a different way and they’re all starting to wobble together in a slightly integrated way,” he said.
The war in Ukraine, Elkington believes, is part of this “accelerating disassembly of an old world order”, with time now running out to replace it with something better.
“So the the question is, if your systems are losing their resilience, what do you do?,” he asks. “You’ve got to invest in all of those systems, you’ve got to restore them, you’ve got to regenerate them and I actually think that unless and until we can properly make capitalism regenerative, this isn’t going to work.”
To show how we can make capitalism work, Elkington – the man known as the ‘Godfather of Sustainability’ – has written Green Swans. The book presents solutions for how we can transform global systems to make them better serve the needs of people and the planet.
These Green Swans are designed to ‘deliver exponential progress in the form of economic, social, and environmental wealth creation’. To learn more about how we can move decisively in this direction, I am delighted to welcome John on to the show.