Rege­ne­ra­ti­ve Inves­t­ing: In con­ver­sa­ti­on with John Fullerton

Hos­ted by the BMW Foun­da­ti­on Her­bert Quandt in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with the in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with the Capi­tal Insti­tu­te, Bun­des­in­itia­ti­ve Impact Inves­t­ing and Unter­neh­mer­TUM, the gathe­ring brought tog­e­ther a sel­ect group of thought lea­ders and chan­ge-makers in the world of finance. 

Finan­ce for a Rege­ne­ra­ti­ve Eco­no­my: The event cen­te­red around the con­cept of rege­ne­ra­ti­ve inves­t­ing, a pio­nee­ring approach in finan­ce that bridges eco­no­mic growth and eco­lo­gi­cal res­to­ra­ti­on. It’s about nur­tu­ring a rege­ne­ra­ti­ve eco­no­my that not only prospers finan­ci­al­ly but also revi­ta­li­zes our eco­sys­tems and enhan­ces social well-being. 

We sat down with John Ful­ler­ton, the foun­der of Capi­tal Insti­tu­te to ask a few ques­ti­ons about the prin­ci­ple of rege­ne­ra­ti­ve eco­no­my and what role impact inves­t­ing can poten­ti­al­ly play: 
What is the fun­da­men­tal con­cept behind rege­ne­ra­ti­ve eco­no­mies? 

The core idea is to ali­gn our eco­no­mic sys­tem with the pat­terns and prin­ci­ples found in natu­ral living sys­tems, which have been respon­si­ble for the evo­lu­ti­on of life on Earth throug­hout history. 

Could you high­light the most cru­cial prin­ci­ples of this con­cept? 

I dis­cuss eight prin­ci­ples, but I would empha­si­ze that the pivo­tal ques­ti­on is whe­ther we view the human eco­no­my as a living sys­tem. If we ack­now­ledge it as such, then we can look to the inher­ent wis­dom of living sys­tems. It’s not about my per­so­nal per­spec­ti­ve; it’s about under­stan­ding how life ope­ra­tes. The crux of the­se prin­ci­ples is the shift away from vie­w­ing the eco­no­my as a machi­ne, as pro­po­sed by neo­clas­si­cal eco­no­mics and modern manage­ment with a focus on effi­ci­en­cy and pro­duc­ti­vi­ty. Ins­tead, we should see it as a living sys­tem and edu­ca­te our­sel­ves about how such sys­tems func­tion. It’s bene­fi­ci­al to distill the­se prin­ci­ples to their core, as they are descrip­ti­ve qua­li­ties of how life func­tions. For exam­p­le, one prin­ci­ple asserts that every part of the sys­tem ope­ra­tes in har­mo­nious rela­ti­onship with the others, and the sum of the­se rela­ti­onships is grea­ter than the sum of the indi­vi­du­al parts. In essence, you are not mere­ly the sum of your eyes, nose, and feet; you are the result of the­se com­pon­ents working tog­e­ther in harmony. 

What does that mean for our cur­rent finan­cial sys­tem, and what chan­ges are requi­red in invest­ment prac­ti­ces to ali­gn with the prin­ci­ples of a rege­ne­ra­ti­ve eco­no­my? 

Addres­sing this ques­ti­on is akin to wri­ting a doc­to­ral the­sis, but I’ll start with a major shift – balan­ce. One of the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples, which ali­gns with tea­chings from yoga, is the importance of balan­ce. Our capi­ta­list algo­rithm has been desi­gned to maxi­mi­ze finan­cial return on invest­ment, and it has been remar­kab­ly suc­cessful in this regard. Howe­ver, this suc­cess has come at the expen­se of other cru­cial aspects we care about, inclu­ding natu­ral and social capi­tal. Essen­ti­al­ly, we’­ve crea­ted a sys­tem that extra­cts natu­ral and social capi­tal to gene­ra­te finan­cial capi­tal. While this approach has led to signi­fi­cant pro­gress, it has also resul­ted in a towe­ring peak of finan­cial capi­tal, while the moun­ta­ins of social and natu­ral capi­tal are dwind­ling – a sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly veri­fia­ble trend. This unsus­tainable situa­ti­on means that the algo­rithm is not mere­ly fla­wed; it is fun­da­men­tal­ly wrong. Con­se­quent­ly, finan­cial capi­tal must under­go a pro­found inter­nal trans­for­ma­ti­on, which is a chal­len­ging endeavor. 

How do you view the impact of the impact inves­t­ing approach? Do you think it is a step in the right direc­tion?  

Abso­lut­e­ly. I per­so­nal­ly iden­ti­fy as an impact inves­tor, and I belie­ve it repres­ents a posi­ti­ve step for­ward. It con­sti­tu­tes a com­mu­ni­ty of indi­vi­du­als grap­pling with com­plex ques­ti­ons. Howe­ver, it should not be mis­con­strued as a com­pre­hen­si­ve solu­ti­on to the broa­der sys­te­mic issue. None­thel­ess, we should con­ti­nue to work within this frame­work, as it curr­ent­ly appears to be the most pro­mi­sing direc­tion we’­ve explo­red. I am a strong sup­port­er of impact inves­t­ing, but we must reco­gni­ze its limi­ta­ti­ons in addres­sing the lar­ger sys­te­mic chal­lenges.