It’s episode 118, and we’re going to talk about how we talk about the circular economy – the language we use, and whether it’s helping us, or getting in the way. Catherine Weetman talks to Ann Stevenson, the circular economy lead at Resource Futures, an employee-owned and non-profit distributing BCorp environmental consultancy in the UK.
Ann has been working in the field of environmental consultancy for over 25 years, and one of her specialisms is understanding and managing risks in transitioning to a circular economy.
Ann became curious to know more about how we use language to explain and make the case for the circular economy, and to discover whether that is is affecting how SMEs are moving towards more circular practices. The academic term for this kind of research is discourse analysis – aiming to understand how language is used in real life situations.
Ann recently completed a PhD, using discourse analysis to investigate perceptions of risks around the CE for established small manufacturing businesses, or SMEs, and she’s written a chapter with her key findings for a newly released book: Circular Economy: Meeting Sustainable Development Goals, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. We’ve included links to Ann’s phD and the book in the shownotes.
We discuss some surprising findings, in particular how we tend to frame the workings and outcomes of a circular economy in ways that actually encourage and embed the wrong behaviours! For example, Ann explains how focusing on economic cost savings can lead us to focus on outcomes that are too narrow, and that might ignore important benefits – especially over the long term.
We can end up with unintended consequences, too – one example is when we talk about waste being a valuable resource – and Ann explains why that’s tricky.
International speaker, author and strategic advisor, Catherine Weetman helps people discover why circular, regenerative and fair solutions are better for people, planet – and prosperity.
Catherine’s award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started.
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Links we mention in the episode:
- Circular Economy Podcast on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/showcase/circular-economy-podcast/
- Circular Economy Podcast website: circulareconomypodcast.com
- Catherine Weetman on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/catherine-weetman-9419107/
- A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business – buy from any good bookseller, or direct from the publisher Kogan Page, which ships worldwide (free shipping to UK and US) https://www.koganpage.com/CircEcon2
- Interactive podcast index https://www.rethinkglobal.info/circular-economy-podcast-index/
- Rethink Global www.rethinkglobal.info
- Sign up to get the podcast player and shownotes for each new episode emailed to your inbox
Links for our guest:
- Resource Futures on LinkedIn
- Resource Futures website
- @ResourceFutures on X
- Sign up to the Resource Futures email newsletter
- Ann Stevenson on LinkedIn com/in/dr-ann-stevenson10
- Download Ann’s PhD researching perceptions of risks
- The Royal Society of Chemistry’s new book (with a chapter written by Ann): Circular Economy: Meeting Sustainable Development Goals
Ann is the circular economy lead at Resource Futures, an employee-owned and non-profit distributing BCorp environmental consultancy.
Ann has been working in the field of environmental consultancy for over 25 years supporting businesses and the public sector in establishing and implementing better material management practices and policies.
Ann is an expert on understanding and managing risks in transitioning to a circular economy and designing and delivering projects and programmes aimed at improving the environmental performance of businesses.
Ann has a keen interest in how discourse supports or inhibits changing practices that aim to reduce negative environmental impacts, and recently completed a PhD using discourse analysis to investigate perceptions of risks for established manufacturing SMEs in adopting circular economy practices. Key findings from this research on challenges facing SMEs are included in a chapter for a newly released book from the Royal Society of Chemistry, Circular Economy: Meeting Sustainable Development Goals.
Playlist: getting started with the circular economy…
Want to know more about the what the circular economy really is, and how it can help your business? Here’s a playlist to help you get to grips with the concept, how it creates value, and the common myths (spoiler alert – it’s much more than recycling!)
- #1 What is the circular economy: A quick intro to explain what the circular economy is and why it’s important. We explore how it helps create better products and services, and at the same time helps to make a better world. I break it down into my 5 circular economy components, helping you think about each part of your business.
- #2 The linear economy and your risk checklist: We dig a bit deeper into the way we do business now, the linear economy, and why that’s creating problems for business, society and our living planet. Also, we’ll look at the risks that emerge from those big-picture issues, and how they might affect your organisation.
- #90 Does circular mean it’s sustainable? Does circular mean it’s sustainable? Catherine Weetman is worried that companies are using circular economy solutions to grow their business (and their footprints).
- #101 Circular is better for people, planet and profit! How three simple strategies can help you get started with circular and regenerative solutions that are better for people, planet and profit
And here’s Catherine’s guide: What is the circular economy?
Want to dig deeper?
Why not buy Catherine’s award-winning book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy. Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable.
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Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’. Or, follow them on Twitter.