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Economics of Sustainability

In this article, we dive into various economic concepts within the field of sustainability, including the Circular Economy, Regenerative Model, and Carbon Credits.

Circular Economy

Our current economy is linear, we take (natural resources), make (products), and waste. The circular economy is an economic model that transforms our current model into one with no waste. The circular economy deploys numerous business models, such as cycling, extending, intensifying and/or dematerializing, to design products and services to become either technological or biological nutrients at their end of life. These business model strategies focus on building to last, designing as nature does (biomimicry), massive resource productivity, and the concept of products as a service.

Overall, the circular economy is a strategy to get to a regenerative or restorative economy and as with any economic model, there are criticisms. The following are current concerns with the circular economy:

  • The circular economy’s underlying value is still economic efficiency, which prioritizes profit.
  • Since this is an economic model, people are still reduced to consumers.
  • There is a real risk of greenwashing the circular economy by turning it into a buzz word when no actual progress is being made.
  • The conversation surrounding the circular economy is held by global elites and experts, they currently control the strategies and execution of these business practices.


Regenerative Model

The Regenerative or Restorative Model is an alternative economics model to our current economy. There is a lot of information and context behind this model and how it differs from our current way of doing things.

In the Regenerative Model, money is transformed from it’s current form (as an agreement between two parties) to something that restore nature and human relationships. Our current economic model sees everything as a commodity to sell. A Regenerative Economy puts the health and well-being of both the planet and its inhabitants as the primary GDP (Gross Domestic Product) goal.

The main goals or themes of a Regenerative Economy are the following:

  • Equality and equity for all
  • Wealth redistribution
  • Purposeful work
  • Investing in the protection of our natural systems
  • Tax shifts
  • Penalties for polluting or human exploitation
  • Healthcare for all

In a Regenerative Economy, there would be a shift of incentives and subsidies from maximizing resource extraction to protecting the environment and worker benefits. This model requires businesses to act ethically in a way that mimics the complexity of natural systems where the priority is restoration rather than extraction.


Carbon Credits

The terms carbon offsets and carbon credits are used interchangeably, though they mean slightly different things.

A carbon offset refers to a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or an increase in carbon storage that is used to compensate for your company’s carbon footprint. When you buy a carbon offset you are paying for a company to remove GHG from the atmosphere or you are paying into a renewable energy project to compensate for your company’s carbon footprint.

A carbon credit is a transferable certificate/permit that is certified by governments or independent certification bodies that allow companies, industries, or countries the right to emit 1 tonne (1,000kg) of CO2. Carbon credits rarely reduce emissions. The real challenge is decarbonizing companies but that can be time, money, and expertise intensive. Carbon offsets and credits should only be a small fraction of a company’s climate goals.




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