Photo by Eryk on Unsplash


Our economic activity has taken the soul out of nature, our society and increasingly out of ourselves. As a result, the way we live has become environmentally, socially, and psychologically unsustainable. To create a more sustainable future, we need a new economy which puts the soul back into nature, society and ourselves.  Whilst this will require far reaching changes, this article provides some examples of what is already happening.  These examples give us a glimpse of a sustainable future, what could be at the end of the tunnel, if we have new leadership right across our society.  We are all leaders and, together, we can create a better future.


The recent special report published by the ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ (IPCC) says the world is completely off track, to keeping global warming to below 1.5C, and is now heading towards 3C.  Keeping to the preferred target will mean rapid far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.  Over 9 million people in the UK, almost a fifth of the population, say they are always or often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting to it (British Red Cross and Co-Op, 2016). At any one time it is estimated that more than 300 million people have depression, about 4% of the world’s population when the figures were published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015. To create a more sustainable society we need a soulful economy which reconnects us to nature, each other and ourselves.


If we are to become environmentally sustainable, we need an economy which puts the soul back into nature.  We need an economy which reconnects us to nature.  One way of doing this is through Biomimicry.  This is where businesses, rather than learning about nature, learn from nature.  By using Biomimicry businesses can learn from elements of nature in terms of its form (what it looks like), its processes (how it survives and grows) and its ecosystems (how it lives in harmony within its environment).  This learning enables businesses to create products, processes, strategies and policies that are well-adapted to life on earth for the long-term. By learning from nature businesses can be in-sync rather than in conflict with our natural environment.  After all, nature has already solved many of the problems we are facing today.  According to the Biomimicry Institute, examples of business using biomimicry include learning from the humpback whale to create efficient wind power, learning from the kingfisher to reduce the noise of the bullet train, and learning from termites how to insulate our buildings. 


If we are to become socially sustainable, we need an economy which puts the soul back into society.  The soul of society is community. We need an economy which reconnects us to each other. One way of doing this in business is through co-operatives.  In a traditional business the people who provide the finance own the company and then they hire the workers.  In a co-operative it works the other way around.  The workers own the company and hire in the finance.  Some co-operatives are taking this further and are running the business through a process called sociocracy (also known as Dynamic Governance).  This is a governance method grounded in collaboration, self-organization, and distributed authority. It seeks to achieve solutions that create harmonious social environments as well as productive organisations and businesses.  Businesses using sociocracy include Outlandish, Fabrique Public and Industrial Design, and Creative Urethanes.


If we are to become psychologically sustainable, we need an economy which puts the soul back into ourselves.  Our soul is often experienced as giving us a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives.  Without this we become an empty shell of ego. When this happens, whilst we may project confidence and self-esteem, inside we feel empty and start to suffer depression. Working towards our own purpose in our current debt oriented economy is easier said than done.  This is because most people have to take jobs which provide, what is euphemistically called, a living.  Rather than living, many people are wage slaves.  This often provides little space for people to work towards achieving their ‘soul purpose’ in life.  One way for some space to be opened up is to introduce the ‘Universal Basic Income’.  This is where an unconditional basic income, which has no means test, is distributed automatically to all citizens. With automation and artificial intelligence increasingly removing the need to employ people in business, without a Universal Basic Income, the alternative is for the industries that to employ people to produce more and all of us consume more.  This is the approach currently being taken by governments who are trying to stimulate both increases in productivity and employment.  Clearly, this approach is not going to lead us towards creating a sustainable society.  Instead, businesses which produce goods with less people could be taxed more to pay for a Universal Basic Income which frees up more time for people to work towards achieving their ‘soul purpose’.  This may be to create art, provide care, volunteer, be entrepreneurial or provide leadership in creating a more sustainable society, etc.  Countries which are / have been experimenting with providing different forms of Universal Basic Income include Canada, Finland, India and Namibia.


Our society is unsustainable because we currently have an un-soulful economy. This type of economy is being reinforced and maintained by unsustainable leadership.  This article has provided examples which demonstrate we can create a more soulful economy which will lead to a more sustainable future for us all.  To create a soulful economy we need more leaders who can lead with soul. We need new leadership.


We are helping people to lead with ‘soul’ at our Discovering New Leadership module at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Snowdonia on 3rd to 5th March 2019.  This is a cost plus 'Pay As You Can' event.


Terry Sexton

Leadership Psychologist

11th October 2018

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