Embracing a Circular Economy

What plays into a sustainable future in a circular economy?  How do we make daily choices to be engaged in a circular economy?  Can a company be profitable in a circle economy?  What are some of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in a circular economy?  

What is a Circular Economy?

circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input, waste, emission are minimized by slowing, closing, narrowing energy and material loops that can be achieved through stable and strong management with a focus on the environment and sustainability.  People who play a critical roll in a circular economy are scientists, product, industrial, and technical designers combined with manufacturing, marketing, and ultimately it is the consumer who decides on the products they will purchase.   

Taking into the requirements of a circular economy, which are to repair, reuse, refurbish, restore, recycle, and compost.  This is a huge contrast of our current linear economy which is a ‘take, make dispose of’ model of production. 

In a circle economy, we need to be aware of long-lasting design, renewable resources, and energy in all stages from but not limited to the parts manufacturer, the product manufacturer, and the service provider to ensure we are getting energy recover and avoiding landfills.  

A major argument in favour of the circular economy approach is that achieving a sustainable world does not require changes in the quality of life of consumers, in an ideal world companies and brands would not occur a loss of revenues or extra costs for manufacturing and other economic agents. Those in favour of a circular economy believe that circular business models can be as profitable as linear models and allow consumers to keep enjoying similar products and services.  But the fact is, many involved in the supply chain will want to charge more as it is a niche and speciality market until it hits the mass product consumption levels.   

Last spring I found myself at numerous educational engagements talking about the future of a circular economy.   One event was hosted by Cranfield University from Bedfordshire, England that has a few educational programs focused on a circular economy, engaging future generations in fields of Circular Design, Circular Innovation, Circularity in practice, Extending material life, Mining value from Organic Waste, and a Circular economy with renewable energy.  

Where does it all start and what are some proactive solutions to bring value and benefit to the consumer.  

The Players in a Circular Economy

The starting point for a circular economy starts with management, choosing the needs of consumers around the globe, based on consumer demands, wants, and needs.  Taking into consideration the effects on our environment, management starts to plan and plot the path, the budgets, the strategies, the pricing targets, and then engages their staff (team players) that can take the necessary steps to bring the product to life and market.  

Management will then hand off the challenges to scientists who will search for available resources in chemicals or natural resources (land, forest, and water) that are already in existence or look for new technologies that are being brought to market or they will work on new solutions that are needed in our economy of over 7 billion consumers.   All to frequently science is creating products to replicate our natural resources, as it is costly to mine or collect the natural resources.   

At the same time that scientists are engaged, product and/or industrial designers are engaged on the product needs, features, benefits, the materials, durability, attractiveness, packaging, labeling, benefits, and the added value that it brings to the consumers life.   These processes or materials maybe damaging to our air quality, oceans, forests, and environment as during the design process the affects on humans, animals, and mammals were not taken into consideration.   The designers maybe influenced by the scientists but often it is the power of design that overrides science and calls all the shots.

From design technical staff are engaged to create the templates and specifications of the product.  The technical staff will have to take into consideration the materials, the construction, the durability, and end use.  

The product will then be handed over to manufacturing, which usually happens in a 3rd world country that does not get to see the affects on our planet as they work twelve hour days, six days a week to sustain and provide for their family and loved ones.  There time off is usually spent in their local communities with family and friends.  

Management within the factory is responsible for keeping the operation profitable by securing more orders and demanding that staff work longer, harder, and smarter to get more product output and increase their profits.    Management is also looking at more efficient ways to produce the product and reduce the costs.   

Once the products are created it is time for marketing to get involved, how will the product be taken to market, what is the segment and pricing strategies?  What differentiates the product from the competition, why should consumers choose our products?   How perception and deception play into the marketing that will empower the consumer to believe they are getting something special.  

Marketing plays a crucial role on how consumers will embrace their products.  The future depends on a circular economy.  We need to demand transparency and information from the brands we purchase products from.  

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