Skip to content

social value

Social benefits from circular approaches, including regeneration of local resources, creating jobs for disadvantaged or excluded groups, social enterprises, and so on.

Artwork for Circular Economy Podcast episode 131

131 Re-Action – Sharing: Serving more people with less stuff

This is #2 in the 5th Anniversary mini-series featuring the Re-Action Collective, and focuses on sharing and ‘pay to use’. We hear from the founders of three startups enabling people to have convenient and affordable access to high-quality outdoor gear: Anna Smoothy from Cirkel Supply, Rebecca Heaps from Tentshare and Bruce Leishman from KitUp Adventures.
The strapline for this episode – serving more people with less stuff – was inspired by Anna Smoothy at Cirkel Supply. I loved their aim, to serve more people with less products. and that aligns with one of my favourite phrases at the moment, about the need for businesses to do better, with much less.
Sharing, including ‘pay to use’ systems, is one of the 3 key circular economy strategies that I encourage businesses to focus on. Sharing can be a catch-all term for commercial arrangements that make it easy to use something for a short period, rather than owning it. These systems can help organisations to serve other organisations, to serve individuals, or for people to serve other users.
For decades, we’ve been happy to rent houses, holiday accommodation, cars, skis and bicycles, movies and more – and now people are branching out into other categories. Rental and subscription services are popping up for technology, fashion and accessories, home appliances, furniture and more, avoiding the need to buy things you aren’t sure you’ll want to use over the long term. Often, these are disruptive startups using online platforms to provide convenient, flexible ways to access high-quality brands at affordable prices.
Sharing is really coming to the forefront, in particular for younger people who want access to the stuff they need and see ownership as a burden, not a benefit.
Global revenue growth for sharing and renting is forecast to grow at 30% each year, and is key to helping us do much more, with much less. In other words, we get more use – or productivity – from underutilised assets – meaning we need fewer of them in the overall system. This is sometimes referred to as Decoupling. (The UN defines Absolute Decoupling as “a situation in which resource productivity grows faster than economic activity (GDP) and resource use is absolutely declining.”)

Artwork for episode 130 with Heather Davies

130 Heather Davies: the Re-Action Collective

It’s now 5 years since I started the podcast, and to celebrate, I’m doing a 5th anniversary mini-series. I’ve invited several guests from the Re-Action Collective, a group of circular economy pioneers in the outdoor sports sector. Over the next few episodes, we’ll be hearing from them and exploring 3 different types of circularity – sharing, repairing and repurposing.
The Re-Action Collective was formed in 2022, by Gavin Fernie-Jones and his friend, Heather Davies. We met Gavin back in Episode 72, talking about One Tree at a Time, a circular social enterprise to repurpose outdoor gear and ski-wear and to share value with the community and nature.
In this episode, we’ll meet Gavin’s co-founder, Heather Davies, a freelance sustainability-focused content creator and communications trainer. Heather is motivated by a love of nature and the outdoors, and she works with a range of organisations, helping them communicate their sustainability stories and strategies, without greenwashing. She also offers training, including carbon literacy courses.
The Re-Action Collective is all about Making the outdoors more affordable and accessible, and over the next few episodes, we’ll meet some of the member organisations, with business models based on sharing, repairing and repurposing.
Heather and Gavin formed Re-Action to challenge product marketing that tells us we need shiny new, highly technical kit to access the outdoors. They say “We live in the outdoors and we know this isn’t true. We also know a lack of access to basic outdoor kit and absence of community are barriers to people getting outside and active for the benefit of their physical and mental health.”
The Re-Action Collective wants to amplify the voice and impact of circular economy pioneers in the outdoor sports sector, for example running, cycling, climbing, surfing, sailing and snow sports. Member organisations rescue products and revive them through repair, rebranding and repurposing. They then redistribute items through resale, rental and donation and reallocate profits to regenerate the outdoors.
Re-Action is focused on community-first solutions and wants to empower citizens to be more mindful about how they buy, maintain and dispose of their outdoor clothing and equipment.
We’ll hear how the collective works in practice, and how they’ve developed ways to avoid the pitfalls of shared interest groups that end up being hard to engage with, because they generate too much information and conversation.

Artwork for Circular Economy Podcast episode 129 with Alex Holland of SolarPunk Stories

129 Alex Holland: SolarPunk Stories for a circular future

How do we draw people towards a deliciously sustainable future?
In this episode, we’re going off at a slight tangent: to explore how we can bring people into this world, to feel they have agency and to see an exciting, meaningful future where we do better, with less.
We’re going to hear about a way of telling stories – that could be fiction to help people understand circular solutions, or it might be stories to help them imagine how circular products and services work in real life, helping them see how that’s more fulfilling than buying yet more stuff and adding to the problems of waste and pollution.
Alex Holland is the Founder of SolarPunk Stories, and has worked as a journalist in the UK, Venezuela and India.
Alex has an MA in Leadership for Sustainable Development and created the world’s first Tea Pub which was also Crowdcube’s most-shared startup.
SolarPunk is a much more optimistic genre than dystopian fiction – it’s more like the Thrutopian concept set out by Professor Rupert Read in an article for the Huffington Post, a few years ago.
Utopias are too fantastical, whereas dystopias can be useless, even dangerously doom-mongering. Instead, we can create thrutopias: stories that help us see a way through the challenges we face, that help us build a vision for the future we want to be part of: a regenerative, fair and inclusive future that we can be proud of. Stories that help us to imagine, to feel what it would be like, and to design the political and economic systems to get us through.

Values Groups from the Common Cause Foundation Values Map

Can staying true to our personal values accelerate circular change?

Our values guide our attitudes and actions, and most people’ deep-seated values support circularity and sustainability. But we misunderstand other people’s values, and that is holding us back.
The field of social psychology can help us understand more about how our personal values drive behaviour, and what that means for sustainability and the circular economy. How can we tap into our values to drive positive change?

Artwork for Circular Economy Podcast #126 with Ruth Taylor

126 Ruth Taylor: closing our circular values gap

Ruth Taylor of the Common Cause Foundation guides us through the field of social psychology, to explore how our personal values drive behaviour, and what that means for sustainability and the circular economy.
I recently completed ‘Values 101’, a short course run by the Common Cause Foundation. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about our behaviour and what motivates our choices, actions and interactions.
The course tutors were Ruth and her colleague Tom Crompton, and today, I’m talking to Ruth about some of my main takeaways from the course.
The Common Cause Foundation works at the intersection of culture change and human values, and is driven by the belief that it is possible to design societies that magnify and strengthen the cooperative and caring parts of human nature. By doing that together, we can build ways of living that are equitable and just, and lie within our planetary boundaries.
The Common Cause Foundation sees Values playing a pivotal role in shaping our cultures and systems. The dominant global culture is out of balance, prioritising extrinsic values such as wealth, power and social status, in a way that has led us to the brink of destruction; with crises of poverty, inequality and climate change. Common Cause Foundation’s work shows that balance can be restored by elevating intrinsic values instead – values like community, creativity and unity with nature.
Ruth Taylor has worked in the field of social and environmental change for close to 15 years. She is driven by the question of how more people can be encouraged to think, feel and act differently when it comes to the multiple and interconnected challenges we are experiencing globally.
Ruth explains what values mean, and how they impact our daily lives, and we talk about the Perception Gap – the mistaken beliefs we have about other people’s values, and why that matters. We also talk about why we might not always act in line with our values, and how we can overcome that.
We explore how engaging certain values could influence more sustainable and circular behaviours, and how it’s relatively easy for people to become interested in topics and actions that have similar underlying principles – for example, being passionate about women’s rights makes it more likely that you’ll be interested in supporting other movements for equality and fairness, both for humans and other-than humans.
We find out how values are like muscles, and can be strengthened, and we discover why we misunderstand other people’s values, and how that’s holding back our shift to a circular and regenerative world.

Artwork for Circular Economy Podcast episode 125 with Walter Stahel

125 Walter R Stahel: signs of circular progress

Professor Walter R Stahel, widely acknowledged as a circular economy pioneer, talks about progress, barriers and missed opportunities. Walter is the founder and director of the Product-Life Institute in Switzerland, founded in 1982 and now Europe’s oldest sustainability-based consultancy and think tank. These days, his is a keynote speaker and author on sustainability and circular economy and says he has always been interested in what he does not know.
With over 500 publications since 1975, he holds a number of visiting professor and lecturing roles, and a long list of awards and advisory roles, including being a Full Member of the Club of Rome.
Walter sees the circular economy as a ‘changer of the globalised industrial game’, creating societal resilience and providing protection against disruptive events. Walter created the idea of the performance economy, as a way of extending the concepts of the circular economy, and says that many of the opportunities are either untapped, or criticised by those who benefit from the Rentier Economy. (If you want to know more about the problems of the rentier economy, have a listen back to ep 119 with Ken Webster.)
We talk about the business case for the circular economy, and Walter highlights some of the aspects that are often missed, especially for the future value of materials. We discuss the opportunities offered by platforms, digital twins and passports for products and materials, and why we need better ways to assess the remaining life of expensive products and components.
We discuss the need to shift from a mindset of owning to using, and the need to change how we frame things for customers and businesses. Walter describes how we might rethink designs to minimise risks and liabilities, and how caring for our things opens up lots of interesting career opportunities, especially for young people.

Image of the Wonderful Circles of Oz book

Book Review: The Wonderful Circles of Oz

My review of The Wonderful Circles of Oz: A Circular Economy Story, by Ken Webster and Alex Duff.
Ken Webster, one of the circular economy’s leading thinkers, and creative writer Alex Duff teamed up to offer us a different way of looking at the problems of our modern economy unset out ideas for a restorative alternative. It’s an intriguing, thought-provoking book that tackles key issues including the use of personal data, digital currency, the rise of the ‘rentier class’ and the future of food.

Circular Economy Podcast artwork - Ep 124 Share Shed

124 Share Shed: the world’s first travelling library of things

Mirella Ferraz is co-founder of Share Shed, the world’s first travelling library of things. The Share Shed van visits rural communities, so people can borrow a wide range of useful things, including tools, household appliances, camping and gardening equipment, sewing machines, suitcases and much more!
Share Shed aims to
• Help people save money, space and resources, and reduce clutter
• Build bridges between people’s needs and wants and the resources already available in their community
• Support more collaborative and sustainable lifestyles and inspire people to engage in social change
Mirella Ferraz has worked for over 10 years at the Network of Wellbeing, which supports Share Shed, and she is proud to set up and run community projects that support the wellbeing of people and the planet. Mirella grew up in Brazil, and currently lives in Devon, UK.
We find out how Share Shed works in practice, and how it’s been evolving as it expands to serve more communities – including finding was to make the service more convenient for those who can’t make it to the Shed’s pick up and drop off locations and schedule.
Mirella tells us how perceptions and attitudes are changing, too – for a variety of reasons.

Circular Economy Podcast - episode 120 Catherine Weetman: priorities are changing

120 Priorities are changing

People’s priorities are changing, as we realise more stuff doesn’t make us happier– so how can businesses thrive by doing better, with less?
In this episode, Catherine suggests it’s time to bust one of the myths of the modern economy – people don’t want more and stuff! Priorities are changing, people are realising that more stuff doesn’t make us happier. Instead, people are discovering that life is better when we care for, share and treasure our stuff, and what’s more, that’s better for our planet and society.
But this presents a big challenge – a paradox – how can businesses succeed without selling more stuff, every year? Many of the Circular Economy Podcast guests are already doing just that, using circular strategies to thrive by doing better with less.
You probably already have big questions on this. It feels logical to say that new designs and innovations will always make life better, that people want to keep up with trends and the status that comes from having the latest thing,
And of course, that making new products underpins the success of a business … but Catherine shares research and insights from guests in the last series of podcasts to show why we need to question conventional wisdom, and choose alternative strategies that are fit for the current business landscape.

Circular Economy Podcast Ep119 BONUS Ken Webster - the circular ECONOMY - Part 2

119 BONUS Ken Webster: the circular ECONOMY! Part 2

This is the 2nd part of the conversation with Ken Webster, one of the foremost thinkers in the circular economy field, where we explore concepts for a critical aspect that’s being ignored – the economy itself!

In this episode, we go deeper into the possibilities offered by a universal basic dividend, especially as we move to a world where artificial intelligence might completely change the nature of work.
Ken mentions his work with Earth4all, supporting the discourse and new thinking marking the 50th anniversary of the Club of Rome’s ground-breaking Limits to Growth report.
We move on to Ken’s mission to make these concepts easier to grasp and to help people get excited, plus the importance of getting really clear on the core idea, before trying to make this work in practical terms.
Ken explains the overlaps between the thinking around circular economy and complex, adaptive systems and highlights some of the glaring faultlines in mainstream economic thinking.
That leads us back to the Commons and regenerative and open systems, together with the key questions that should be at the heart of designing circular products, components and materials,
And we finish by hearing a bit more about Ken’s most recent books, including ABC&D: Creating a Regenerative Circular Economy for All – co-written with Craig Johnson, and his latest book, The Wonderful Circles of Oz: A Circular Economy Story, written with Alex Duff.
If you haven’t already, please do listen to the previous episode to hear Ken talk about the Universal Basic Dividend (not Universal Basic Income), and the importance of reviving the concepts of commoning, and the Commons.