The direct economic impacts of climate change include the costs of adaptation and mitigation. Wider impacts come from the deeper need to restructure economic systems requiring continual inputs of large quantities of fossil fuel energy (and hence high outputs of greenhouse gases) and externalisation of environmental and social costs.1 Within a global economy structurally dependent on growth, and with no way to decouple growth from rising greenhouse gas emissions, the 'green economy' can remain at best an adjunct to business as usual.2 Even without taking social costs into account, research conducted within the United Nations Environmental Programme has shown that if environmental damage was accounted for, none of the major global industries would be cost-effective.3 Accordingly, permaculturalists have sought alternative ways of doing business that neither directly contribute to climate change nor undermine the social and natural capital necessary for adaptation.
The Reconomy project is an important feature of the Transition movement's efforts towards economic localisation. By taking an entrepreneurial approach to community-based responses to climate change, it seeks to make them financially sustainable. A report from the UK included examples of community-run energy cooperatives, bus services, bakeries, cafes, pubs, bike workshops, health care providers, builders, housing providers, local currencies and banks.4 Longer term, and especially when co-existing in the same area, such Transition Enterprises can be the basis for local economies flexible enough to sustain provision of material needs through the economic restructuring involved in energy descent.
Many Transition Enterprises take a cooperative approach, and there is strong evidence that this makes sense in relation to adaptation. Analytically, the seven principles of cooperative enterprise map closely onto the properties of resilient systems with high adaptive capacity. In places with long-standing traditions of cooperative business and established networks of mature enterprises, trading among each other and supporting the creation and growth of new co-ops, the result is highly resilient regional economies able to respond flexibly to changing conditions.5 Committed to a geographical place, such businesses and networks provide a powerful basis for adaptation to the economic impacts of climate change: a compelling example of the practical benefits of commons-based governance.
The concept of Regenerative Enterprise deepens these insights through the systematic application of permaculture design.6 In addition to the familiar concept of financial capital, it recognises seven other forms of capital: material, living, social, cultural, intellectual, experiential and spiritual. All eight forms of capital are essential to a healthy economy and society, and to effective climate adaptation. Regenerative enterprises seek to cultivate rather than extract capital, focusing on the quality and interconnection of the capital they create, not just quantity, and so reverse the consequences of narrow focus on financial capital. They exist in collaborative relationships within enterprise ecologies in which different enterprises take responsibility for nurturing different forms of capital. Regenerative Enterprise is a key influence on the wider theory of Regenerative Capitalism: an approach to economics based on biomimicry, consistent (unlike conventional economics) with contemporary science and hence capable of supporting long-term economic and social flourishing.7
An example of a regenerative enterprise is Nova Mondo, which harnesses the potential of cacao to support cultural and ecological regeneration: supporting ecologically sound farming practices and ethical business among supplier partners in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Belize and investing surplus revenues in rainforest protection.8 Another is North American firm Guayakí, which works in partnership with Aché Guayakí people and other groups indigenous to the South American Atlantic forest to support their economic self-reliance and consequently their cultural self-determination. It markets yerba mate, grown in the shade of the forest canopy by Aché cultivators and offers various forms of technical and social support.9 It invest profits in replanting native hardwoods in the Atlantic Forest, a highly degraded and threatened habitat.