Communication with purpose: What is the regenerative economy?

16 October 2023, By Deborah Gray, Founder and Managing Director

Concerns about the environment have become a top priority worldwide. According to a survey by Bain & Company, 80% of European consumers are willing to pay more for products that are manufactured in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Another report reveals that 76% of consumers have changed their consumption habits in the wake of the pandemic, prioritsing sustainability.

In addition to sustainability, companies should pay close attention to the well-being of their employees. Data such as the fact that only 65% of companies worldwide expect to meet their pay equity targets this year, as pointed out by Manpower, or the fact that mental health-related sick leave in people under 35 will increase by 31% between 2015 and 2021, according to Fremap, lead to reflect on the importance of addressing not only environmental but also social aspects in economic development.

This is precisely what the regenerative economy is about.


🡢 Content

What is the regenerative economy?
Benefits of the regenerative economy for brands
How to implement regenerative economy
Communication: the key to the regenerative economy
Examples of regenerative economy campaigns

Conoce cómo las empresas se convierten en agentes de regeneración ambiental y social, fomentando el consumo consciente y estableciendo alianzas estratégicas para abordar desafíos globales.

🡢 What is the regenerative economy?


The regenerative economy is an innovative approach that aims to transform traditional economic activity by including social and environmental issues on an equal footing with financial returns. Unlike conventional business models, which focus on maximising profits, the regenerative economy argues that economic success should always go hand in hand with global sustainability.

This approach aims to create a system in which businesses become active agents of environmental and social regeneration, capable of protecting natural resources, strengthening communities, and promoting human well-being. To achieve this, both consumers and businesses must adopt a different mindset, recognising that their economic decisions have a direct impact on the environment and society.

Education and awareness are basic pillars in the regenerative economy. The aim is to promote responsible purchasing decisions, to encourage the purchase of environmentally friendly products and services that are produced in an ethical and socially fair way. To this end, consumers are encouraged to consider not only the price and quality of products, but also their impact on people and the planet.

The regenerative economy promotes collaboration and cooperation between businesses, communities, and governments. It seeks to establish strategic partnerships to address global challenges such as climate change, social inequality, and environmental degradation. Through these partnerships, the exchange of knowledge, resources and technologies is encouraged with the aim of finding innovative and scalable solutions that drive economic and social regeneration. But what’s in it for businesses?

Las empresas responsables ponen a los empleados en el centro. Es clave en la economía regenerativa.

🡢 Benefits of the regenerative economy for brands


Here are some of the main benefits that the regenerative economy can offer to businesses:              

  • Sustainability: The regenerative economy helps businesses adopt more sustainable practices by minimizing their environmental impact and optimising the use of natural resources. This leads to greater efficiency and reduces costs in the long run.
  • Resilience: by designing business systems that can regenerate and adapt to environmental and societal changes, businesses increase their resilience to unexpected events and crises, improving their long-term viability.
  • Innovation: the regenerative economy drives the search for creative and sustainable solutions. This can lead to the development of new products, services and business models that generate economic and environmental value.
  • Competitive advantage: by adopting regenerative approaches, companies differentiate themselves from competitors and gain a competitive advantage. In addition, they can attract and retain customers committed to sustainability.
  • Collaboration: The regenerative economy promotes collaboration between businesses, communities, and other stakeholders. This allows for the sharing of knowledge and resources, the creation of synergies and problem-solving through multidisciplinary approaches.
  • Social benefit: The regenerative economy creates value for both businesses and communities. In this way, companies can generate a positive impact and strengthen their reputation and relationship with diverse audiences.
  • Sustainable growth: by integrating regenerative principles into their strategy, companies can identify new market opportunities and create innovative solutions that meet changing consumer needs.

Finally, adopting a regenerative economy perspective can help attract and retain talent, which is an increasingly difficult task, especially among young professionals seeking to work in organisations with a purpose that goes beyond mere profitability.

🡢 How to implement regenerative economy


In practical terms, the regenerative economy manifests itself through a variety of business strategies and practices, which are often based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals provide a roadmap for businesses that want to walk a path to sustainability, although their level of dedication may vary.

sustainable development goals

Ricardo Martín, Managing Director of Corresponsables, a leading digital portal on CSR and sustainability since 2005, explains: “According to a survey of more than 400 companies, the SDGs with the greatest weight are Gender Equality (SDG 5), Partnerships (17) and Climate Action (13). The least used by companies are No Poverty (1), No Hunger (2) and Reduce Inequalities (10)”.

However, none of these measures is effective unless it is part of a long-term regenerative economy strategy involving the following key aspects:

  • Establishing a regenerative vision and mission: companies should define a long-term vision that includes environmental sustainability and social well-being. This implies contributing positively to the community and the environment, aligning their objectives and actions across the value chain and not only in their Corporate Social Responsibility.
  • Assess and minimize environmental impact: the supply chain and processes need to be analysed to identify areas where the environmental footprint can be reduced. This requires adopting cleaner production practices, improving energy efficiency, managing resources responsibly and reducing waste and emissions in daily operations.
  • Promoting a culture of well-being and equity: It is essential to prioritize workers’ well-being and promote equity in the workplace. This means ensuring fair wages, opportunities for growth and development, a positive working climate, and inclusion and diversity policies. Work-life balance should also be encouraged.
  • Collaborate with other stakeholders: As Catarina Oliveira, Director of Canela Portugal, explains in our blog, the multidisciplinary nature of the regenerative economy requires collaboration between businesses, governments, NGOs and civil society. Establishing strategic partnerships can help drive systemic change and tackle complex challenges that go beyond the capabilities of a single company.
  • Measuring and reporting impact: As with any action, it is important to establish metrics and tracking systems to measure the company’s social and environmental impact. As Deborah Gray, Founder and CEO of Canela, has said, this allows us to assess progress and make informed decisions to continuously improve. Communicating transparently and authentically about sustainability and wellbeing achievements and challenges can build trust and engagement with the brand.

There are different tools that are useful to advance the regenerative economy. For example, the B Corp certificate recognises companies that meet the highest standards of social and environmental commitment. Being a B Corp demonstrates a commitment to the regenerative economy and can open business and collaboration opportunities. Canela, one of the first B Corp certified PR agencies in Portugal and Spain, is an example of how these companies can be agents of change.

Canela B Corp

🡢 Communication: the key to the regenerative economy


The media plays a key role in spreading the word about the importance of embracing and participating in the regenerative economy. Both traditional and digital media can reach a wide audience – from older generations who need to adapt to younger generations who will be responsible for continuing to drive these initiatives in the future.

As Deborah Gray points out in this interview with PR News, “Communication is a key tool. Many companies may have questions about how to participate in the regenerative economy, what value they bring and what initiatives they can implement. For companies that already have some experience in the sector, highlighting their impact can inspire others and even help raise awareness in society at large of the need to promote a fairer way of running the economy.”

In this sense, as we have already indicated in IP Mark, honest, transparent and effective communication is essential for the success of the regenerative economy. Companies should avoid falling into negative practices, ranging from “greenwashing” (presenting a product or initiative as environmentally friendly, even though it is not) to “greenhushing” (also known as “green silence”), which is when a company does not disclose its sustainable initiatives, for fear of receiving unfavourable criticism or because it does not know how to do so.

A balance needs to be struck between the two extremes, allowing the company to showcase its sustainability progress, promote verification of positive impact and encourage other brands and consumers to follow suit. To achieve this, social media is a powerful loudspeaker.

A good example is the En Clave ODS portal launched in 2021 by the digital newspaper El Español, to explain current affairs in terms of sustainability and human rights.

Although Corporate Social Responsibility of companies plays an important role in its content, the selection of news covers a wider range. Raquel Nogueira, editor of the portal, says: “To select the topics we are going to publish, we apply journalistic criteria. First, we check if the news fits the theme of the SDGs and human rights. We also try to make sure it is topical, although it is not essential, because we do in-depth reports on issues that have already happened or that seem relevant to us (…) There are many things we must talk about, even if they do not open the news”.

🡢 Examples of regenerative economy campaigns


Naturally, companies that have emerged from the regenerative economy have an advantage when it comes to reaching the public concerned about these issues. This is the case of Too Good to Go, an app that fights against food waste. With its campaign “Abramos un melón” (“Let’s open a melon”, which in Spanish means to open a debate) and “Grão a grão enche a galinha o papo” (“Little by little the rooster fills the henhouse”, which in Portugal means that with small steps and patience, we can achieve great things), in which Canela collaborated, the company managed to convey an important message to the media in both countries.

“Let’s open a melon”

However, it is not always easy for traditional companies to move forward with a regenerative economy. But, they can take “rooster” steps in that direction, and communicate them, as Jorge Gállego, Director of Corporate Communications and Press at Sony Iberia, says: “One of Sony’s four core values is sustainability. We have created a project called ‘Road to Zero’ with which we want to reduce our environmental footprint to zero by 2025. (…) For example, we have completely eliminated plastic from the packaging of our headphones and also reduced the size to reduce emissions.” In collaboration with Canela, Sony organised a litter pick on a beach in Barcelona last year as a sign of its environmental commitment.

Colaboración: la economía regenerativa fomenta la colaboración entre empresas, comunidades y otras partes interesadas. Eso permite compartir conocimientos y recursos, generar sinergias y resolver problemas con enfoques multidisciplinarios.
‘Road to Zero’

Other examples of communication campaigns focusing on the regenerative economy are:

        1. BBVA’s “Let’s learn together“: this campaign offered educational tools and content on social media. In five years, it achieved 7 million subscribers and more than 500 million views of its videos.
        2. Wallapop’s “Thank you, brands“: this second-hand sales platform is part of the circular and regenerative economy. This year, it launched a campaign to thank companies that are committed to the durability of their products.
        3. Adolfo Domínguez’s “Be older“: this campaign invites people to buy durable and fashionable clothing. In 2022, they launched another campaign, “Repeat more and think less”, which opens a debate about our current way of consuming clothes.These campaigns, which belong to brands from different sectors, used communication strategies to promote the regenerative economy, focusing on different aspects such as education, responsible consumption and product durability.

      They seek to raise awareness so that consumers think responsibly about what they want and need. It is a way for consumers to know which brands are more responsible, whether for people, society or the planet. This way, they can choose freely and with maximum knowledge.

      Want to know more? Listen to our podcast “Comunicar con propósito”!

Deborah Gray, fundadora y Managing Director de Canela
Deborah Gray, Founder & Managing Director
Share this case: