Sitting in a typical session of a strategy creation class, the first question a professor asks to their students when analysing a case study is what could the specific company under study do to "sustainably" make money. For people that are trained in sustainability matters the obvious answer is at least three-dimensional: economics, social and environment. However, if you are sitting with people that have no train in these matters, the answer is uni-dimensional: money. And so it is for the well trained professor.
Sustainability in a company oriented environment is completely the opposite to what it means to the concerned environmentalist or policy maker: it is solely to make money indefinitely and as much as you can. Therefore, when you try to communicate the message of sustainable development to this key stakeholders' group, businesses, the receptors might get confused and fall into what behavioural scientists have called the confirmation bias: they believe you are talking about how to keep making money because that is what a sustainable business means to them.
If we want to avoid this and start a conversation about what we call sustainability, a change in language might be required. A new concept that correctly highlights the principles behind the "environmentalist" definition of sustainability is needed to convey the message to this specific audience and circular seems to do the job. Using the term circular when speaking to businesses may be more effective when bringing the message of acting sustainably. Instead of asking "is your business sustainable?" asking "is your business circular?" could avoid the answer "yes, we are making loads of money" and hope for a "yes, we have a closed-loop business" or "no idea what you are talking about, tell me more". This could keep the conversation going.
Of course this means we need to make sure that being circular is not only about being environmentally friendly, but socially responsible and still make money our of it. For what it has been written in the last three years it seems it does, but a consensus is needed regarding the meaning of this new concept in order to start bringing the "non-educated" audiences on board of what we call sustainability.
It has been almost a month since we started sharing thoughts, ideas and opinions about circular economy through this channel and we have received very encouraging input. As you might know our aim is to help the circular economy become the business as usual scenario because we absolutely believe it is the right approach to sustainable development. We have started by spreading the word about it, sharing with people what it is, explaining why and how does it work and by learning from experts all the details about it.
Now we are starting a new stage in this path that we believe will contribute more to our aim. As of today you will find two new sections in our website: connection and opportunity. In the first section we want to identify companies and people that are becoming circular to help them connect in the near future and work together to bring the circular economy to scale. In the second section we want to know what opportunities for learning and sharing are out there regarding circularity and innovation so we can help individuals interested in becoming circular innovators find them.
We will continue curating and creating content that is useful for circular and non circular professionals in the hope of positively contributing to a sustainable world. We would like to have contributions from people working on the topic and hear from newbies what is needed to accelerate the transition towards a Circular Economy so we will be contacting interested people to join us.
Finally, thank you for the comments, retweets, follows, unfollows and messages. Keep it coming.
Tomorrow July 16th 2014 at 12 pm a great opportunity to understand the circular economy and its feasibility is brought by www.wastewise.be with their webinar "Igniting the circular economy into action" in the context of the 214 Global Dialogue on Waste.
Panelists James Greyson from BlindPoint think tank and doctoral researcher Geraldine Brennan from the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Industrial Sustainability will discuss a series of questions based on an hypothetical scenario where the linear production system has to be shut down. Moderator Maxine Perella will ask about leadership for the transition, innovation and business models, new skills neededand the rol of different stakeholders.
A good strting point to understand the solutions offered by the circular economy to sustinability chllenges as well as the obstacles that need to overcome for scaling it up.
Follow the webinar at http://wastewise.be