With CIWM’s very first Festival of Circular Economy coming to a close, we look back at some of our takeaway moments.
The circular economy is about “stocks”, “caring” and “stewardship”
The event kicked off with a keynote address from Dr Walter Stahel on ‘Why the Circular Economy matters’, giving delegates the opportunity to hear from one of the key people who formulated the concept of the circular economy.
He set out that the circular economy is about ‘stocks’ whereas the linear industrial model is about flows, value added and trends.
Several studies have shown that, for European countries, switching to a circular economy would reduce CO2 emissions by two-thirds…
These stocks are about maintaining the value and utility of natural capital; human capital; cultural capital; financial capital; and manufactured capital – which deals with materials and things.
The thing these capitals have in common, said Dr Stahel, is that they are about “caring” and “stewardship”.
In a particularly illuminating comment, Dr Stahel said: “Several studies have shown that, for European countries, switching to a circular economy would reduce CO2 emissions by two-thirds, which you think would immediately raise the interest of policymakers.”
Using Doughnut economics for broader engagement
We saw a fascinating case study presented by Salomé Galjaard, Deputy Programme Manager Circular Economy for the City of Amsterdam, on how Doughnut economics and the circular economy work in the city.
The Doughnut, or Doughnut economics, is a visual framework for sustainable development – shaped like a doughnut – combining the concept of planetary boundaries with the complementary concept of social boundaries.
A Doughnut analysis revealed where Amsterdam was doing “OK”, in terms of the model’s lenses (global, local, social and ecological), and where it could be doing better. It forms part of the city’s overall circular economy strategy, which has established the target of becoming fully circular by 2050 and to reduce its primary material use by 50% by 2030.
The strategy focuses on three value chains: food and organics waste; consumer products; and the built environment, with a special focus on industry within the city.
Salomé said that in practice, learning how to go about implementing the Doughnut model meant they had a wider engagement than just people that are interested in sustainability.
“It’s great at uniting people,” she said. “It’s great at coming up with richer solutions to complex problems, and we actually get access to a broader audience… which is essential to tackle the challenges that we’re faced within the city of Amsterdam.”
“You can’t achieve a circular economy until it can be properly measured”
Many businesses around the world have recognised that the circular economy can create long term growth and resilience, while also tackling challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution.
However, to make the right decision for the circular economy, companies need the right data. They need a baseline to progress from and clear objectives to reach.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation says that you can’t achieve a circular economy until it can be properly measured.
In its presentation, it outlined Circulytics, a tool developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation designed to measure a company’s circular economy performance.
It [Circulytics] allowed us to test our plan and fine tune tactics to maximise the impact we wanted to have.
The result of a Circulytics assessment is a one-page scorecard which breaks down the score by each of the established indicators, so that potential blind spots can be identified in their strategy as well as opportunities for improvement. It also demonstrates progress over time, so it’s something that companies can assess themselves against regularly. It also gives an insight into where similar companies sit in the benchmarking, which is important because progress varies by industry.
Marianne Richeux from CHEP – A Brambles Company, which used the Circulytics assessment tool, said that they needed a tool to be able to measure where they were on the circular journey.
Richeux said, “Strategically, Circulytics has been an incubator of our five-year plan. It allowed us to test our plan and fine tune tactics to maximise the impact we wanted to have. It helped us focus our effort on materials… and energy with renewable sources.”
“If you want to make a difference start with the biggest product”
And what is a bigger product in fashion than jeans?
In the session “Switching to Rental Sales Models to Support Circularity”, Bert van Son, founder and CEO of MUD Jeans, gave us an in-depth look at this fast-growing sustainable jeans company from the Netherlands.
In 2012 he started the idea – “Lease A Jeans” – a concept that makes it possible for customers to use jeans and give them back after use. The approach allows customers to regularly renew their wardrobe, while MUD Jeans makes sure the materials will be recycled after use.
The company allows customers to shop “guilt free and do good for the environment, while looking fashionable and modern”.
I’ve been in the garment industry all my life… and I’ve seen it grow from a beautiful industry, making clothing to protect yourself and look good, into this fast fashion monster
“I’ve been in the garment industry all my life,” said Bert van Son, “and I’ve seen it grow from a beautiful industry, making clothing to protect yourself and look good, into this fast fashion monster… If you want to make the biggest difference, start with the biggest product – and that’s jeans. They’re also the most polluting product. It all starts with the cotton… it’s all going wrong.”
Over the session he revealed a number of staggering figures on the impact of the fashion industry.
- It’s is the second worst industry for environmental impact (behind fossil fuels).
- 7,000 litres of water are used to produce 1 pair of jeans.
- 10% of global CO2 emissions are caused by fashion.
- There has been a 60% increase in clothing per average consumer in the last 15 years.
- 92 million tonnes of textile waste are discarded by the fashion industry annually.
- 1 waste truck of textiles waste is thrown away every second.
- Less than one percent of clothing is recycled into new clothing.
“Circularity has to be the future”
“Circularity has to be the future,” said session chair and CIWM vice president Dr Adam Read (top centre) as he opened the session on partnership and collaboration. “If you’re not evolving, then you’re a dinosaur.”
One of the standout messages of collaboration from this session was a theme picked up by Dan Dicker, Founder & Director, Circular & Co. He said: “If you’re being circular from a design perspective then you have to control the whole supply chain… Circular design isn’t just product design, it’s supply chain management.”
This idea of collaboration along the whole supply chain was carried on by Savina Venkova, Circular Economy Manager at HSSMI, who went on to say, “The supply chain is crucial to deliver circular change. We like to think about new circular innovations and projects in terms of circular inputs, uses and outputs… Understanding the supply chain is crucial to the success of a project.”
When Adam asked each of the panellists for their takeaway message, here’s what they said:
“Three words: innovation, opportunity, and people” – Dan Dicker, Circular & Co (bottom right)
“Think about product as a service” – Niall Walker, Diageo (top right)
“Let’s get together and dream reality” – Katherine Conto, Mondelez (bottom left)
“Always involve people you wouldn’t ordinarily have involved” – Savina Venkova, HSSMI (top left)