Looking beyond net zero: new report challenges businesses to adopt ‘just and regenerative’ approaches capable of tackling critical global challenges

top picture


16 November, 2021




  • As ‘just and regenerative’ approaches gain traction across the sustainability movement, new report defines the concept for business and outlines how companies can reset ambition in order to tackle escalating social and environmental crises
  • Coming on the back of COP26, the report recognizes that net zero is urgently needed, but also challenges businesses to look beyond it – making the case for deeper transformation and providing a new tool to help leaders drive change

London, 16 November 2021 – Following the COP26 Climate Summit, a new report launched today is calling on businesses to urgently reset their sustainability ambition – ultimately adopting “just and regenerative” approaches with the potential to transform the way they operate at scale and pace.

Titled A Compass for Just and Regenerative Business, the report was created by international sustainability non-profit, Forum for the Future, in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The report defines ‘just and regenerative’ as an approach that: embraces the power of nature to renew and regenerate; understands that humans are a fundamental part of nature; and respects everyone’s universal rights and potential to thrive.

Just and regenerative approaches also:

  • challenge businesses to go beyond current extractive models to recognize the ability of all living beings and ecosystems to regenerate, replenish and create the conditions for more life
  • call for integrated thinking on environmental and social issues – recognizing that a thriving planet can’t be one that contains widespread human suffering, while a thriving human population can’t exist on a dying planet.

Whilst there has been increasing energy around regenerative approaches and social justice issues, there hasn’t yet been an attempt to integrate the two concepts for a business audience.

The report aims to bridge that gap and comes as the latest science indicates that global decarbonization rates remain radically off course – with our entire 1.5ºC budget set to be used up within just eight years at current emissions rates.

Commenting on the report launch, Forum for the Future’s Chief Executive, Dr Sally Uren, said: “COP26 put the spotlight on the urgent need for greater ambition in tackling the climate crisis and the associated crises of biodiversity loss and inequality. Right now people are asking what’s next? We know that standard approaches to corporate sustainability haven’t got us where we need to be – but there has been no alignment on what will be the key unlock or what business needs to do. At Forum we believe a fundamental mindset shift is required – one that puts just and regenerative approaches at the heart of business. This guidance lays out what that mindset shift is and, crucially, what businesses need to do to make it happen. “Businesses are either working towards restoring our world socially and ecologically, or they are depleting it,” Dr Uren continued. “Right now, business leaders have a choice: they can
lead and help shape the next wave of sustainability – or they can get left behind.”

The report goes on to:

  • make the business case for why a just and regenerative future is so urgently needed – arguing that the very success of companies long-term will depend on thriving communities to trade with and a healthy planet to exist on
  • define five key outcomes of a just and regenerative future that businesses need to help realize: thriving social and environmental systems; rapidly stabilized planetary health; universal respect for human rights; the adoption of fairer ways to create and distribute value; support for resilience and vitality across generations and geographies
  • present an all-new ‘Business Transformation Compass’ tool to help leaders understand their current approaches – such as ‘do less harm’ or ‘do no harm/net zero’ -and reset their ambition to go further
  • provide specific recommendations to transform functions such as Marketing, Human Resources, Procurement and Corporate Affairs, and to address critical challenges such as climate, nature, circularity and waste, decent work and human rights.

Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD, said: “Momentum is building for real transformation of our societies and the businesses that serve them. Ambition is getting closer to where it needs to be – every day more companies commit to the creation of a net-zero emission, nature positive and inclusive future. Earlier this year WBCSD released Vision 2050: Time to Transform, a framework for action to help business translate its ambitions and commitments into impact at scale. Alongside its nine transformation pathways, Vision 2050 identifies three strategic mindset shifts that are essential to unlocking transformation at the rate and scale required: reinventing the outcomes of our current model of capitalism, rethinking long-term resilience, and adopting regenerative business approaches. This Compass for Just and Regenerative Business digs into the regenerative mindset, providing a resource to guide accelerated business contributions to a net-zero, nature positive, equitable world, in which more than nine billion people live well, within planetary boundaries. It’s time to transform.”

The report is based in part on insights from leading organizations such as the American Sustainable Business Council, Unilever, Nestlé, Ingka Group (IKEA), Kimberly-Clark, Seventh Generation, SIG and Capgemini.

Rob Cameron, VP Global Head of Public Affairs, Nestlé, said: “To feed the world for generations to come, our approach must go beyond ‘doing no harm’ to having a positive impact on food systems at scale. The Business Transformation Compass presented in this report is a hands-on tool supporting our journey to regeneration. Inspired by nature’s ability to renew and revive, Nestlé aims to co-create a resilient future for our planet and its people.”

Paul Margetts, Managing Director, Capgemini in the UK, commented: “It is imperative that we address the environmental and social crises, and that we take necessary action today. At Capgemini, we are committed to becoming a net zero business and will be carbon neutral by 2025, whilst also supporting our clients on their net zero journeys. The sheer scale of the sustainability challenge we collectively face provides a huge opportunity for businesses to create positive change. However, to do this at pace requires a reset and for businesses to adopt a just and regenerative mindset. We believe this report makes an important contribution in taking responsible business to the next level”.