Regeneration vs Sustainability: From Footprints to Handprints

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Regeneration vs sustainability? For many people, these two words mean the same thing. Since both words are often used to describe the methods for stopping a climate crisis. Telling the difference can be difficult sometimes.

However, regeneration is not sustainability. In fact, while the former is a recent trend, the latter has been around for decades but failed to deliver. According to Bain & Company, 98% of sustainability projects fail.  Considering the climate emergency the planet faces, it’s time to rethink the ideas that have led us here.

We cannot solve the problems of today with the same thinking that created them. Thus, rethinking our approach to social and environmental problems would require a change in outlook. From sustainability to regeneration. From footprint to handprint.

See Also: Shift from carbon neutral to nature-positive

The way forward: Regeneration vs Sustainability

For more than 3 decades, individuals and organizations have tried to effect positive change through resource management and altruism. Yet these methods failed. This approach popularly known as sustainability did not fail because the goals were impossible or the motives were dishonest. Rather, sustainability goals fell short of what we should have been aiming for.

For example, an organization that pollutes the environment only needs to engage in actions like buying carbon credits to be sustainable. But this changes nothing and only maintains the status quo. Sustainability became an easy way out of responsibility without addressing the real issues. Therefore, it is no surprise that it has failed to make the planet better.

Regeneration vs Sustainability

On the other hand, regeneration wants everyone involved in restoring the environment to its former state. This is unlike the sustainability way in which companies cause environmental harm and attempt to correct them through carbon offsets. Instead, regeneration goes beyond just managing the illness to preventing or curing it altogether. The goals of regeneration might be tall but they are worth it.

Also, regeneration calls for proactive contributions from everyone. Not just the ones responsible for warming the planet. We all have a part to play in restoring nature. Therefore, we should include these impactful actions into our daily lives and activities. In this age, you don’t have to be a botanist to work for the climate or own a fossil fuel company to feel responsible for the planet. Regeneration closes the gap between responsibility and duty by giving everyone a chance to save the planet.

Above all, it is easy to tell which approach is more effective. And just like the image above, the grass is always greener on the side of regeneration. 

Regeneration First: From Footprint to Handprint

By adopting regeneration, we are committing to a new level of thought and a new set of priorities. Moreover, this shift changes how we see the problems and what we should pay attention to. For this purpose, Dr Simon Schillebeeckx & Dr Ryan Merrill (both co-founders of Handprint) wrote a research paper for anyone looking to evolve away from sustainability.

Consequently, this paper inspired the Regeneration First Manifesto, a guide that among other things tells footprints apart from handprints. A footprint (e.g. carbon footprint) is a measure of the negative impact an individual or organization has on the environment. While a handprint refers to the sum of positive actions taken to better the planet. 

Want to know more? Check the video below from our series ‘Ask the Digital Sustainability Expert’. 

The comparison table below gives a clearer picture of why Regeneration is worth pursuing:

sustainability versus regeneration comparative table


Make a mark today, start with your own handprint

Regeneration is here to stay and the work is just getting started. There is a growing number of people across the globe passionate about making this planet better for all of us. We at Handprint refer to this movement as the  Regeneration Generation. There are many ways for companies and their customers to contribute to this great mission. For example, as an E-commerce business owner, your customers need to know that you are serious about the planet. And you can convince them only by knowing what your consumers want you to do for the planet.

You could also be an individual, still confused by regeneration vs sustainability. Or not knowing how to work for the planet in your normal job. Our article on working for the climate will present you with opportunities that inspire.

Similarly, as a supporter of impact projects, you might need proof that you invested in the right projects. Our article on sustainable forests breaks down how to recognize projects with the most impact.

In any way you choose to make your handprint, we have the resources to guide you.

To find out how much you or your company can do to ensure the planet stays within the 1.5° temperature, try out Handprint’s Regenerative Target Calculator.