The future of sourcing is regenerative: the why and the how


The future of sourcing is regenerative: the why and the how

Decades of unchecked resource consumption and waste production have exposed the inefficiency of the traditional linear economic model. The relentless pursuit of growth and progress has put immense strain on the Earth's finite resources, leading to environmental degradation and an ever-growing waste crisis. Statista projects that, at the current rate, 3.4 billion metric tons of municipal solid waste will be generated around the world by 2050.

One thing is certain — the current model is not sustainable, and there’s a need to reconfigure the way we source and use our resources. Thus, the concept of regenerative sourcing offers the paradigm shift needed to rework the present model of taking without replenishing and disposing with reckless abandon.

The necessity of regenerative sourcing

Regenerative sourcing has become a necessary alternative as our consumption of resources is skyrocketing. According to a United Nations report, from 1970 to 2017, the annual global extraction of materials tripled. This unprecedented surge in resource consumption has led to the rapid depletion of natural reserves, many of which are non-renewable. Fossil fuels, essential for powering our modern societies, are being extracted at a pace far exceeding their ability to regenerate. Metals and minerals, fundamental to industries ranging from electronics to construction, face a similar fate.

The consequences of this over-extraction are far-reaching, triggering ecological imbalances and habitat destruction. Mining activities are known to cause deforestation, water contamination, and habitat loss. The impact of mining affects up to 1/3 of global forest ecosystems. Deforestation makes the land more prone to erosion, thus affecting farming and other human activities.

The more resource extraction continues unchecked, the deeper the impacts reverberate through economies and societies. Industries reliant on natural resources face mounting challenges as the depletion of these resources intensifies. For example, deforestation due to uncontrolled logging practices not only devastates ecosystems but also reduces the availability of timber for construction, furniture, and paper industries.

Deforestation is a lose-lose situation, both for nature and people. Deforestation is a lose-lose situation, both for nature and people.

This scarcity drives up material costs and may force these industries to seek alternatives, leading to potential disruptions in supply chains and increased product prices for consumers. This is why regenerative sourcing has gained prominence in recent times. It incentivizes industries to explore alternative materials and production methods that have a lower environmental impact.

Overall, the urgency to adopt regenerative sourcing practices cannot be overstated. Embracing this approach can foster a more sustainable coexistence between humanity and the natural world, helping to safeguard our planet's ecological integrity for generations to come.

Trends in regenerative sourcing

While regenerative sourcing is a relatively new approach, there has been a notable surge in its adoption across various industries in recent years. As global awareness of environmental issues and resource constraints intensifies, businesses are increasingly recognizing the urgency of embracing sustainable practices. This has led to a growing trend of companies actively integrating regenerative sourcing principles into their operations and supply chains.

Notably, consumer demand has played a pivotal role in shaping this trend. With a heightened focus on ethical and eco-friendly products, consumers are now seeking transparent and sustainable sourcing practices. Businesses that demonstrate a commitment to regenerative sourcing can effectively tap into this emerging market, gaining a competitive advantage and building strong brand loyalty.

A growing trend of companies actively searching for regenerative sourcing solutionsA growing trend of companies actively searching for regenerative sourcing solutions

From the fashion industry to the food industry, the wave of regenerative sourcing is waxing strong. Brands like General Mills, Nestle, and Danone have made varying commitments towards responsible sourcing by supporting regenerative agriculture for ingredients and packaging. Nestle has a responsible standard for sourcing pulp and paper sustainably. Brands like B’EZOS and Notpla are also creating biodegradable packaging from biomaterials to replace plastic materials. Fashion brands like Bolt Threads, AllBirds, and Trace Collective are also pitching their tent with regenerative sourcing.

These uptakes aren’t just happening by chance. There are policies in place driving them. The EU Farm to Fork Strategy, for example, aims to accelerate the transition of EU member states to a sustainable food system where the food system has a neutral or positive environmental impact. Furthermore, other international initiatives and organizations are also driving the adoption of sustainable practices in various industries. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 12, focused on responsible consumption and production, emphasizes the need for sustainable resource management, waste reduction, and efficient use of natural resources.

Obstacles to regenerative sourcing

As innovative as it is, regenerative sourcing is not without its obstacles. One of the main obstacles is the initial investment costs and transition expenses for industries. Shifting from conventional, resource-intensive practices to sustainable alternatives may require substantial upfront investments in new technologies, infrastructure, and workforce training. Some companies may be hesitant to commit to these costs, especially if short-term returns are uncertain.

Another obstacle lies in the complexity of supply chain transformations. Regenerative sourcing often involves reevaluating and restructuring supply chains to incorporate sustainable sourcing practices and circular economy principles. This process can be time-consuming and challenging, as it requires collaboration with suppliers, stakeholders, and partners, potentially leading to resistance or delays in implementation.

Furthermore, regenerative sourcing requires reliable data and metrics to assess its effectiveness and impact accurately. Gathering and analyzing comprehensive data on resource utilization, waste generation, and ecological outcomes can be complex and resource-intensive. The lack of standardized metrics and data collection methods may hinder efforts to measure progress and demonstrate the benefits of regenerative sourcing.

Final thoughts

Recent trends in regenerative sourcing demonstrate a growing momentum among industries to embrace circular economy principles, eco-friendly technologies, and responsible resource management. Consumers, governments, and investors are actively influencing this shift, demanding greater transparency, accountability, and commitment to sustainability.

Embracing regenerative sourcing is not only an opportunity to meet these growing demands but also a strategic move for businesses to stay competitive in a rapidly changing market.

💡Check out tocco’s marketplace to source for more than 1000 biomaterials here


Farm to Fork Strategy. (n.d.). Food Safety.

GOAL 12: Sustainable consumption and production. (n.d.). UNEP - UN Environment Programme.

Martins, A. (2023). Most Consumers Want Sustainable Products and Packaging. Business News Daily.

Materials from living things: embracing the biomaterial revolution | tocco. (n.d.).

Mining impacts affect up to 1/3 of global forest ecosystems, and tippe. (n.d.).

Statista. (2023, July 18). Global municipal solid waste generation projection 2016-2050.

UNEP Environment and Trade Hub & International Resource Panel. (n.d.). SUSTAINABLE TRADE IN RESOURCES GLOBAL MATERIAL FLOWS, CIRCULARITY AND TRADE [PDF]. UNEP Environment and Trade Hub.

Written by Anh N. on 02/08/2023

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