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May 05, 2015
Is Regenerative Capitalism a Spiritual Quest?
    by Robert Kropp

John Fullerton of the Capital Institute authors an admirable paper on what he calls Regenerative Capitalism, but how do we get from the here of exploitation to there? First of a three-part series.

Several mornings ago, I opened my email and found myself gifted by an intensely creative close friend with a passage from the Book of Job. My friends among the faith based investors will understand how bracing a reading of Job can be first thing in the morning! In the course of our correspondence, my esteemed friend asked, If God is love then what is Satan? To which I replied, Satan is the guy who reserves the seat at the head of the table for the reductionist ego.

I was raised a Roman Catholic—or to be more precise, an Irish Catholic, with as the writer Camille Paglia describes, “its tendency toward brooding guilt and ranting fanaticism”—but with the onset of puberty I abandoned religious practice without a second thought.

Dostoevsky heaped particular scorn upon those of us who decline to definitively announce their positions on the existence of a Supreme Being. I became disinclined to believe, at least in part due to the extreme personification of the deity by many organized religions; yet many regular activities in my personal life—yoga and meditation, and the reading and attempted writing of literature—have a spiritual component, the importance of which is undeniable to me.

In 2007, when I began writing for, I had next to no knowledge of what sustainable investing is. Within weeks, however, I developed pronounced respect for the commitment to social and environmental justice that is clearly a priority for many of its practitioners. I thought their efforts revolutionary, an effort to change the financial system for the qualitatively better from within.

I still think highly of their efforts, but over time my perspective has been tempered somewhat by two realizations. First, most of the sustainable investors with which I have had contact are institutional organizations, and their fiduciary duty requires that they provide their beneficiaries with market rate returns. A thoroughly sustainable investment philosophy requires the cooperation of other institutions, especially the regulatory power of government.

Second, two developments have declared themselves the most profound in terms of the financial system's disinclination to rouse itself from short term self interest and act in the greater interest of society: the financial crisis and its yet ongoing aftermath, and climate change. Our inability to solve wealth inequality and climate change has convinced me that the financial system that currently has an outsized effect on our lives is irretrievably broken. As dedicated and well-meaning as sustainable investors are, most of them are not in a position to call for the overhaul of an established system.

Recently, into the fray has come John Fullerton of the Capital Institute, whose 120-page white paper entitled Regenerative Capitalism seeks to align the financial system with scientifically based precepts that acknowledge the intimate connectedness of all things. I'll have more to say about Fullerton's ideas in the next two articles, but an initial reading suggests that he espouses the replacement of a reductionist philosophy that arbitrarily breaks things down into component parts. Instead, in keeping with discoveries of the past few decades in quantum physics, he calls for the gentle eviction of the financial system from the head of the table, and back to where it is subsumed within the economic, and civilization, and earth, and the biosphere.

For some reason I seized upon a quote in Regenerative Capitalism by the Catholic philosopher Thomas Berry. I followed the link and read, “A structure of knowledge can be established, with its human significance, from the physics of the universe and its chemistry through geology and biology to economics and commerce and so to all those studies whereby we fulfill our role in the earth process.”

We fulfill our role in an as yet unrealized cosmic order. We transcend those primal tendencies of ours toward destruction of all that stands in the way of our short sighted desires.

Next: Regenerative Capitalism Seeks Radical Overhaul of Financial System.

Robert Kropp can be contacted at


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