Indeed, this is exactly what I believe we need to do. When we talk about growth and progress in a business context, we often mean economic growth, which is ultimately GDP growth. Whether you believe that there can be unlimited growth on a finite planet or not, the problem is deeper: It’s about what value even means.
To illustrate, think about a tree, perhaps you have one in front of your house as I do. That tree has absolutely no value to the economy until we cut it down and sell its wood. The tree produces oxygen, gives shade, reduces the ambient temperature – all this value is nothing to the economy.
We can see symptoms of this problem in the way we are destroying our natural habitat, exploiting the weakest of our fellow humans, driving climate change through atmospheric pollution, decimating biodiversity, and increasingly leaving behind a significantly altered planet. A PNAS study from 2018 concluded that of all mammals on Earth, 60% are livestock, and merely 4% are wild animals, with humans making up the difference. 70% of birds are chicken and other poultry. And this all comes back to haunt us, from the current pandemic to the all-time highs of mental health disorders and suicide rates in Western countries even before 2020.
This is why I say that at this point, sustainability is simply not enough, but we need to regenerate and rewild life on this planet, so life can thrive and with it, our lives. I’d like to clarify that wellbeing is not about how often you get to visit a spa, but about building lives and livelihoods that more fully address real human needs such as connection, certainty, significance, or contribution.