Key Learnings from the Circular Economy Sector

Spiral Stairs; Staircase, Circular Economy

Image courtesy of Jan Fidler at

If you’re part of a company that is socially and environmentally driven, chances are you’ve heard of terms like cradle to cradle, biomimicry and circular economy.

That’s really no surprise given its growing popularity in the new world of conscious capitalism.

So what is it really?

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation–a foundation that focuses on accelerating the transition towards a circular economy–the term refers to an economic model that is “restorative by design… that decouples economic growth and development from the consumption of finite resources.”

Many companies feel overwhelmed by this concept and economic model, embracing the assumption that their company could never achieve such an advanced level of sustainability.

But the truth is that a lot of companies could be doing a lot more.

If you’re looking for a solid introduction to the concept, I’d suggest checking out an article written by Marc Gunther. A journalist, writer and speaker, Marc does a fabulous job outlining what it means to be part of a Zero Waste World and what’s trending this movement forward (or potentially backwards) in today’s business landscape. This article is a must read if you really want to wrap your head around sustainable innovation and push your company towards embracing this type of business model.

I’d also suggest surfing around the The Ellen MacArthur Foundation website which provides a wealth of free resources including a toolkit as well as some incredible case studies that can help your business take its “first steps towards circular economy innovation.”

One of the case studies featured on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website focuses on the company wear2–an apparel company that works to provide access to effective clothing disassembly technologies–enabling the rebirth of apparel products that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Some innovations within the circular economy also embrace aspects of the natural world. Biomimicry, as Janine M. Benyus defines it, is the practice of “…looking to nature for inspiration for new inventions.” Biomimicry is also sometimes referred to as cradle to cradle.

Nature offers a lot of incredible solutions to today’s issues, providing a fantastic opportunity for change makers and business people alike. Understanding this opportunity, Janine M. Benyus founded Biomimicry 3.8, a B Corporation that provides leading biomimicry consultation, professional training and educational program and curricula development.

And though we have yet to see an overwhelming majority of companies move towards a 100% circular economic model, we are seeing more and more of them embrace aspects of this model incrementally. This shift is necessary for a world limited by its finite resources which has historically embraced a “take-make-dispose” linear economy.

Though we’ve seen some companies embrace this new way of operating, we’re going to need to fast-track this movement if we want to ensure the future sustainability of our economy and our planet.

Has your company embraced elements of the circular economy? Have you hit any roadblocks along the way? Were you able to overcome them? I welcome you to share your experiences–whether they were setbacks or accomplishments–in the reply section below. And feel free to move the conversation over to Twitter! You can find me @CSRtist, tweeting all-things relating to corporate good.

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