Brownbag: “The Concept of Time in Regenerative Businesses”



Academic research regarding business strategy and performance has paid little attention to the concept of time, applying time assumptions without necessarily dealing with all possible implications (Mosakowsi & Earley, 2000). Specifically, time has been fundamentally approached from a time scale perspective (Zaheer et al., 1999). Academic literature has focused, in particular, on short-termism (Kosher & Sutter, 2006; Aspara et al, 2014; Perlow et al, 2002; Marginson & MCaulay, 2008; Latham & Braun, 2010), and recently on the tension between short-termism and long-termism in the context of business sustainability (Slawinski et al, 2017; Sternad & Kennelly, 2017; Slawinski & Bansal, 2015; Bansal & Desjardine, 2014).

In the case of regenerative companies, whose main purpose is the regeneration of damaged ecosystems in an economically autonomous and sustainable manner, the approximation to time is paradigmatically different. Rather than discussing the short and long term, regenerative companies observe the present, as well as the long term future, in order to adapt their decisions as an objective. At the same time, other relevant semantic elements emerge that are particularly strong, such as synchronicity. When synchronicity is applied in this context, it is related to the time in which all of the elements flow and converge in a natural manner for business development. In turn, time emerges as a category on its own, forming part of the regeneration process and, therefore, may even be considered a factor of production. In regenerative companies, time is ultimately nature’s time. The people involved in these businesses adapt to this time and, instead of imposing, they apply temporal categories in order to facilitate the flow of regeneration.

This paper, based on more extensive research on the business model of regenerative companies, answers the following research question: how regenerative companies conceptualize and use time. Using the analysis of interviews with 12 regenerative companies, this paper proposes using the time dimensions proposed by Mosakowski & Earley (2000) as a framework: nature of time, experience of time, time flow, time structure, temporal referent point, to analyze the conceptualization of time in regenerative companies. Firstly, this paper contributes to the academic literature about time, in the area of business strategy. Secondly, this paper contributes to the identification of differentiating organizational aspects such as the conception of time in companies, although they do not explicitly adhere to the sustainable degrowth movement (Kallis, 2018), they align with several of its principles.