Ecological Economics

It’s no coincidence the Orion Growth logo is a series of intertwined circles. Back in 2009 when we designed it - the purpose of the company was to break down the vertical silos of commercial real estate and introduce circular, regenerative thinking to a traditional, linear process. We were slightly ahead of the market, but things have taken off lately. It turns out that circular processes and sustainable design mean something now. Circularity is becoming a regulatory requirement for our largest clients, and solving for that is tricky.

Enter Ecological Economics

Ecol-econ is both a transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary field of research addressing the interdependence and coevolution of human economies and natural ecosystems both intertemporally and spatially. Let’s break that down - but stick with me….

Transdisciplinary integrates natural, social, and health sciences in a humanities context.

Interdisciplinary analyzes, synthesizes and harmonizes links between disciplines into a coordinated and coherent whole.

So we’re talking about the relationship between the evolution of economics and the evolution of the earth, together. Here’s what that looks like:

Flow of resources through the economy.
Flow of resources through the economy.

Valuable resources are procured from nature by the input end of the economy; the resources flow through the economy, being transformed and manufactured into goods along the way; and invaluable waste and pollution eventually accumulate by the output end. Recycling of material resources is possible, but only by depleting energy resources and further consumption of an additional amount of material resources.” As cited inside the diagram.

This is a system out of balance. It depletes more natural resources than it restores. It spends more than it makes.

Ecol-econ was founded in the 1980’s as a modern discipline between various European and American academics. The more politically charged, yet related field is Green Economics. My hope is to ease the edge of politics and stick to illustrating the features and benefits of being pro-business and pro-planet at the same time.

We can’t address sustainability without addressing consumption.

The illustration above shows that solar energy becomes low-grade thermal energy after it progresses through our economic system and our atmosphere. The resource is simultaneously being consumed and converted. One might even say, over-consumed and harmfully converted. Evidence includes carbon emissions, carbon sequestration, greenhouse gasses, deforestation, sea level rise, compromised soil structure, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, desertification AND resource depletion. The cumulative effect, no doubt, has an impact on human societies.

This field of study is fascinating. I’ve been following Robert Costanza because of his global perspective. He studied Architecture in the early 70’s - undergrad and graduate work - then went on to get his PhD. in Systems Ecology, Environmental Engineering Science with a minor in Economics - exactly the path that could lead to a wide perspective relating to CRE. Architecture, Ecology, and Engineering - exactly what we need to learn and become more aware of while we build circular processes and explore regenerative design.

Regenerative Agriculture

I can’t finish this piece without mentioning regenerative agriculture. It seems like everything we’re working on at Orion Growth incorporates an element of this practice into our work. For those who are unfamiliar, regenerative agriculture essentially leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, build soil health, increase biodiversity, and generate ecosystem resilience. Beyond that, it aims to go beyond merely sustaining the land's current state and improving it.

It’s impossible to get there without a comprehensive understanding, a passion for learning, and an acute sense of observation and awareness. To make it harder, most of these processes are invisible, and take a keen sense to recognize the subtlety of the change and the magnitude of the impact.


I strongly believe we can be pro-business and pro-planet at the same time. We’re starting to see it at the institutional level with investing. BlackRock launched a massive initiative for investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy. They have 4 categories of sustainable investments:

  1. Screened - Constrained investments by avoiding issuers or business activities with certain environmental, social, and /or governance characteristics.

  2. Uplift - Commitment to investments with improved environmental, social, and/or governance characteristics versus a stated universe or benchmark.

  3. Thematic - Targeted investments in issuers whose business models may not only benefit from but also drive long-term sustainability outcomes. (This is where Orion Growth currently is).

  4. Impact - Commitment to generate positive, measurable, and additional sustainability outcomes. (This is where Orion Growth aspires to be)

The key is to understand the transition and to focus on preparing for, being aligned to, benefitting from and/or contributing to the transition to a low-carbon economy. Being in the game, taking an active role. They go into great detail about the global green energy race and different strategies on their STI page.

The future is bright, but the path is unclear.

Curiosity is as old as mankind. Since the Age of Exploration (from the 15th to the 17th Century) the globe has been inextricably connected. Trade was established, land ownership began, and navigation tools were developed. But there was also a dark chapter: European colonization and warfare. In many ways, it feels like Ecological Economics, the Creative Economy, and Globalism will converge in this 4th Industrial Revolution. Supported by new data validation processes, better awareness of our personal/individual human impact, and the proper application of artificial intelligence, the world ahead of us will benefit from the lessons of the past and hopefully give the earth a break. Humankind might depend on it….

The future of global economics sure will.

Song Pairing - Nature by The Samples - a nod to the early 90’s and an epic band if you don’t know them.

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