Our partners at Trinity College Dublin sat down with Ron Immink, author, entrepreneur and specialist in innovation to get his insight on all things regenerative economy. We discussed the challenges and incentives to achieving this change in the economic system, how Ireland can facilitate this change, and the pivotal role of higher education. Let’s dive in!

 

How would you define the regenerative economy?

RI: A regenerative economy is one that fully accounts for and restores the natural capital costs used by companies and organizations in producing products and services. And in conclusion, if we apply that definition, all economies in the world are bankrupt.

 

What are the main challenges for the implementation of a regenerative economy model?

RI: The main challenge is the consistent use of the wrong metrics, such as GDP. Redefining GDP and adopting a Buddhist economics model are necessary but challenging steps.

 

What role do you see nature-based solutions playing in Ireland’s regenerative economy?

RI: Nature-based solutions are integral to regenerative practices; biomimicry and utilizing natural processes, such as planting trees, are more sensible than developing artificial solutions.

 

If you look at biomimicry, nature has evolved over millions and millions of years. So a lot of the solutions that nature has probably make a lot more sense than the solutions that we’re currently trying to develop.”

 

What policy changes or incentives would be necessary to encourage businesses to adopt regenerative practices in Ireland? How can Ireland attract and retain businesses?

RI: Adopting a regenerative economy could give Ireland a competitive advantage and significant opportunities, like Denmark’s success in wind energy. Governments should establish a reward system for restorative practices, potentially using blockchain or a coin-based system. This would incentivize companies to be restorative and include restorative metrics in GDP calculations.

 

How do you see the role of higher education or the private sector in promoting a transition towards a regenerative economy?

RI: Higher education institutions can create awareness and influence voting behaviours, leading to greater acceptance and adoption of regenerative economics by politicians and companies. The private sector’s role is also crucial, as governments are slow in responding. Businesses can further drive change by embracing circular and restorative business models.

 

How can higher education encourage private sector investment in regenerative practices?

RI: We can encourage private sector investments by extending accelerators to include startups, SMEs, and large industries. Also important is the facilitation of interactions between students and SMEs, promoting diversity in management teams, and fostering intrapreneurship.

 

How can we address potential resistance or pushback from individuals or industries who may be resistant to the idea of a regenerative economy?

RI: We need to create transparency regarding the impact of current industries and the potential benefits of restorative economics. By painting a picture of a utopia we can then emphasize the gap between current reality and the ideal.

As Ron aptly points out, our current economic models fail to account for the true costs of natural capital, highlighting an urgent need for reevaluation – a shifting of metrics away from GDP-centric measures towards more holistic indicators. Moreover, he emphasizes the competitive advantages and opportunities that await Ireland in embracing regenerative practices, echoing the success stories of other nations. By fostering collaboration, incentivizing restorative practices, and addressing resistance with transparency and vision, Ireland can chart a course towards a flourishing regenerative economy.

 

Ron Immink

Interviewed by: Breandán Goss, TCD

Edited: Madeline Arkins, UIIN

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