I recently attended the Sustainable Brands Conference in San Diego. It was an eye-opening experience. The keynote speeches, given by industry-leading visionaries were highly engaging and thought-provoking. Of particular note was the theme of Re-generation vs Sustainability.

Sustainability is a term we are all familiar with and one which we heartedly support. Re-generation, a newer term; for me anyway, added a new provocation and led to a few breakout sessions where I was able to witness a healthy debate. At the end of the day, I was hooked. Let me tell you what it was that got this urban-born, city dweller’s motor running.

The speakers suggested that the notion of ‘sustainability’ is about doing ‘less bad’ while ‘regeneration’ is about doing ‘more good.’ They went on to say that ‘sustainability’ tends to equate for us, on some level, to the notion of doom and gloom, whereas ‘regenerative’ is loaded with positivity, growth and making the world more beautiful by better orchestrating how products are created. Essentially ‘regeneration,’ as far as the speakers were concerned, is about hope, positivity and optimism.

It’s in interesting point of view and one that was framed around the farming practices needed today and which are essential to tomorrow. In this context and when it comes to our precious soil, farming practices are crucial to our future survival, and they undoubtedly need to be about doing good rather than less bad. How can anyone argue with that?

As the experts pointed out, the key difference between regenerative and sustainable farming is that regenerative farming is intended to increase productivity and growth potential, whereas sustainable practices simply maintain systems without degrading them – a prime example of doing good rather than less bad. Regenerative practices recognize how natural systems are currently impacted and apply techniques to restore systems to improve productivity.

The speakers see this as a comprehensive approach to ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ where the ambition is to continually reinvigorate the land and improve the overall environment, while addressing a variety of challenges, including crop rotation, ‘Intercropping’, e.g. coffee trees planted with cotton plants, managing our water, maintaining soil fertility, sequestering CO2 in the soil, energy and waste management, and disease or pest management.

This system of regenerative farming practices also seeks to increase biodiversity, improve watersheds, and enhance ecosystem services. Regenerative agriculture processes capture carbon in the soil, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation.

The goal here is not just to cut down on the depletion of resources, but to actually restore lands, increase productivity, and improve the environment through better farming processes.

Why is this so important right now? The speakers were quick to observe that technology to accomplish these tasks has advanced but “we” as a people, as farmers, as caregivers of the land, well, it seems we haven’t advanced as quickly as the technology has. Changing the vernacular by using words such as ‘re-generate,’ provide a healthy dose of optimism and the push we need to do ‘more good’ rather than ‘less bad.’

Gaining a better understanding of how, as well as understanding why we need to protect our natural resources while feeding the world, is eye-opening. However, the other theme for me was about doing ‘more good’ rather than doing ‘less bad.’ I love that thought process and think we could all do with a shift in our thinking to how we can each work to accomplish that feat of ‘more good’ rather than ‘less bad’ wherever we operate.