We are borrowing permaculture principles for designing sustainable agricultural systems as our guide for our sustainable investment model.  It helps to guide how we are structuring our company, how we screen for investment projects, how we guide our companies to sustainably build their businesses, how we think about aligning incentives, how we think about systemically analyzing problems and solutions, how we think about competition vs. collaboration/coordination, how we view ethics in business and finance, how we view the most effective path to leverage innovation and creativity to build resilient and prosperous companies.  We use this framework for analyzing a wide variety of companies and industries.  It is not a framework that only pertains to agriculture.

With so much new and exciting science and technology in the world, it is easy to get lost in the allure of building and investing with these new tools.  Revisiting these system design principles helps us when we are confused, or lost, or just carried away in the glamour of following the crowd on sexy new investments.  We apply novel science and technology and utilize financial and human capital to create important businesses.  We expect businesses and investors to prosper.  These principles help us keep our balance as we apply these exciting new advances to help solve important problems in the world.

In the following article, many of the permaculture principles we follow are evident in the discussion of how to design renewable food systems.  We spend so much time reading about exciting new healthcare gadgets or drugs that cost millions to develop.  They obviously have an essential role.  However, if we are looking to solve problems at the root cause, we need to use systems based problem solving techniques.  During this process, we get a better sense of the interrelationships of the various problems we face.  For example, without a healthy, regenerative food system, how do people stay healthy, especially people with fewer resources?  How do we have a healthy, vibrant community to enjoy?  All the expensive medical treatments in the world do not address this issue.  Every aspect of this process is collaborative which is where the magic truly is.  It is a slower, iterative, flexible, and much more creative process.  When you look at things this way, more productive ways for industry, governments, and non profit institutions to coordinate become clear.  At the beginning, some of the simple actions you take as a result of this process may seem small and not very exciting.  After some time, as you move forward and continue to collaborate using these principles, the solutions get bigger and bigger, and the innovations wider and deeper in society, resulting in more diverse, empowered people sharing in economic prosperity.  It is inherently a more stable and resilient model.

Can you imagine a healthy and prosperous community, society or world, without sustainable, renewable food systems?  Unfortunately, that is what we have built today in many parts of the world, focusing on big profits at the expense of systems based, collaborative community planning.  We oscillate back and forth between too much regulation and not enough, neither side really working.  To come together with common goals and principles and decide what we want and expect in our world, is not a top down process.  It is a slower, ground up process, with interdisciplinary, diverse, and like-minded people getting together.  New technological and scientific advances are powerful creative tools to help us advance in our societies.  However, if we are using science as an excuse to keep the older, non-collaborative, self-centered business and economic system in place, we all lose.  We continue to destroy our environment and our health.  We continue to live in world and global economy that it is exclusive, not inclusive.

Some of the suggested ideas in this article seem simple on the surface.  However, it is obvious that bringing together stakeholders and agreeing on common goals and principles is never easy, but necessary and always worth it.  We enjoyed the intuitive nature of the discussion of simple changes in priorities, an alignment of common goals, and the collaborative process suggested at the regional level, absolutely essential to make important changes happen, one step at a time.

The following article was written Paula Daniels, the Co-Founder of the Center for Good Food Purchasing.  We found this article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.