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Circular Insights #33 – rethinking business for a new economy

Repair revolution | Creating value | Tao economics | Making a difference| Podcast 54 – LONO

Sustainability and circular continue to gather momentum, as more people realise our ‘take, make, use and discard’ approaches aren’t working for people or planet. Climate actions plans are getting more ambitious (though not ambitious enough) and we’re seeing bold actions from governments, citizens and businesses, getting serious about sustainability.

The Repair Revolution gains momentum….

We’ve covered the increasing interest in repairing in recent podcasts (Sandra Goldmark, author of Fixup in Episode 41 and Elizabeth Knight, co-author of Repair Revolution in Episode 52). Now, France is making a ‘Repairability Index’ mandatory for makers of some electronic devices, including smartphones and laptops. Manufacturers must tell consumers how repairable their products are, using a score based on criteria, including how easy it is to take the product apart and the availability of spare parts and technical documents. Read more on Wired.

Wired includes comments from iFixit’s founder, Karl Wiens, and notes that France’s index is inspired by the repairability scores iFixit has been assigning to laptops, phones and tablets for years.)

To learn more about the problems (and solutions) around repairability, have a listen to BBC Radio 4’s Dare to Repair series from earlier this year.

“UK citizens are the worst consumers in Europe for buying single-use, irreparable goods. Material scientist Professor Mark Miodownik explores how we got to this unsustainable state.” Fixing the Future (episode 3) features designer Sophie Thomas, who we interviewed in Episode 16 of the Circular Economy Podcast.

Circular economy creating value

Healthcare: Intrakoop, the leading Dutch healthcare procurement cooperative, has launched an online marketplace where healthcare organisations can market goods and services they are not currently using to other members.

The Intrakoop Deelplatform, developed in collaboration with digital marketplace designers FLOOW2, aims to encourage a circular economy in healthcare through waste reduction, avoiding unnecessary procurement and minimising excess healthcare costs.

Member organisations can advertise their surplus stock or available facilities, and can also request necessary items or services, for example furniture, medical aids or even the availability of temporary staff. Services and items can be offered for rent, sale or for free, with all the logistics handled on the platform.

Already an established asset sharing platform, FLOOW2 had also previously worked in healthcare, creating Pharmaswap, a site for pharmacists in the Netherlands to trade excess medicines, and Health-Share, a sharing platform for Canadian healthcare. Read more here, and find out more by listening to Lieke van Kerkhoven of Floow2 – The world’s reset button in Episode 37 of the Circular Economy Podcast.

Fashion: New York-based handmade goods marketplace Etsy buys UK pre-loved fashion app Depop for $1.6bn. Is this evidence of the growth of ‘prosumers’ (people who both produce and consume)?The FT says Etsy’s motivation is Depop’s Gen-Z customers (Etsy’s customers are mainly millennials selling vintage and craft goods). Read more in the Guardian.

Short reads

How do we create sustainable and fair business models? You may remember we published our FAIR manifesto earlier in the year. I came across another thought-provoking article by Joel Makower of Greenbiz, asking ‘What’s a sustainable (and just) business model?’ A couple of lines stood out for Joel in Larry Fink’s latest annual letter to CEOs, published in February this year: “There is no company whose business model won’t be profoundly affected by the transition to a net-zero economy.” That that got him wondering ‘what is a sustainable business model? Joel checks in with Rob Shelton to understand the key elements of business model innovation:
  1. What is the value being delivered?
  2. How is the value being delivered
  3. Who benefits?
Joel highlights five sustainable business models: circular, regenerative, decarbonized, just and local. He believes the key message is that “adapting to new world of climate risk means potential rethinking everything”. Crucially, you must have a story to tell that will convince concerned investors that you’re well positioned for an uncertain future. You can read the full article here:

Inspiring podcasts

Episode 96 of Outrage and Optimism (still my favourite podcast!) includes a fascinating interview with Bertrand Piccard, explorer, balloonist, and ‘inspioneer’ who was the first to circumnavigate the globe in a solar powered aircraft in 2016. Bertrand shares his thoughts on how sustainable business can be more profitable, and why we need Tao Economics.

He senses we are in a fight between those aiming for degrowth (leading to social chaos) and unlimited growth (leading to ecological chaos), and believes there is a better, third choice – 

qualitative growth. “Qualitative growth is when you make money and create jobs by replacing what is polluting, by what is protecting the environment.”

The Global Optimism team say that since that flight, Bertrand “has been on a mission to support climate friendly technologies. With his Solar Impulse Foundation, he is close to having found, assessed and labelled 1000 cleantech solutions that have a positive impact on both the environment and the economy. Now he’s making sure that they get used.” The interview with Bertrand starts about 21 minutes into the episode.

Making an impact: Tristram Stuart, founder of Feedback, the food waste campaign charity is a guest on the Ideas Lab podcast series. “A few years back, Tristram Stuart decided that he wanted to gather 5000 people in London’s Trafalgar Square and feed them with hearty, healthy food made from ingredients that otherwise would have been thrown in the rubbish.” Find out what happened, how it reverberated around the world, and how it led to the creation of circular economy beer brand Toast Ale (made from discarded bread), here.

Tristram highlights issues with UK food waste ‘stats’ that tend to focus on households rather than supply chains. We interviewed Lucy Antal from Feedback in Episode 9 of the Circular Economy Podcast.

Episode 20 of the How to Make a Difference podcast, by heyImpact features interviews with me and Erin Andrews. Podcast hosts Elisabeth Ignasiak and Alicia Lee say:

“Did you know that 30% of our carbon footprint comes down to consumption? And that does not include things like fuel, electricity, or food – in the most simple terms, it refers to all the “stuff” we buy. This month we’re tackling conscious consumption: How can we as consumers reduce the carbon emissions related to our lifestyle? One possible solution is the circular economy. 

Our first guest is Catherine Weetman, the host of the Circular Economy Podcast. She explains what the circular economy is and why it is a promising alternative to our current extractive throughput economy. Our second guest is Erin Andrews, the host of the Inner Circle podcast. With Erin, we explore what we can do as citizens and consumers to support a transition to the circular economy.”

You can listen to it either on the HeyImpact website: Episode 20: Conscious Consumption, or by subscribing to the How to Make a Difference podcast via linktree. Episode 20 is the first of a 4-part series on conscious consumption, airing during June.

Circular Economy Podcast

In Episode 54, I’m talking to another awesome circular entrepreneur – Louise Bijleveld, the Co-Founder of LONO in Côte d’Ivoire. LONO has purpose at the heart of its business – to create value for rural businesses and reduce the inequalities in the agriculture value chain.

We hear what drove Louise to set up LONO and where the idea came from. Louise explains how LONO has created three different service offer, to fit different customer needs, and we hear her insights on what it takes to succeed with a circular economy start-up that’s doing something that most potential customers haven’t even heard about. Listen here.

Don’t forget, you can use our interactive, searchable podcast index to find episodes by sector, by region or by circular strategy. Plus, there is now a regular Circular Economy Podcast newsletter, so you get the latest episode show notes, links and transcript delivered to your inbox on Sunday morning, each fortnight. The newsletter includes a link to the episode page on our website, with an audio player. You can subscribe by clicking this link to update your preferences

Useful Resources

Thanks to everyone at Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development (part of Utrecht University), Circle Economy and ING Bank for organising an excellent event on 1 June – Stronger Together. The event part of their New Narrative Collaboration, which includes podcasts and videos:

Coming up 

I’m doing a roundtable on the circular economy, with Pierre-Emmanuel Saint-Esprit (MD of ZACK), Pascal de Petrini (Chairman of Danone Asia) and Laure Cucuron (General Manager at TerraCycle) and Xavier Pavie (Professor at ESSEC and Philosopher) as part of “A JOURNEY TO A SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN” hosted by ESSEC Business School. We’ll be discussing how to move from a linear to circular paradigm, and how to involve the consumer in circularity. The livestream is on June 23, 2021, free to all and you can register with this link.

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