Step One – Circular Economy Awareness
To understand the Circular Economy requires some historical perspective as its early beginnings are deeply rooted in ecological and environmental economics and industrial ecology. For more than 20 years, scholars such as Kenneth Boulding, David W. Pearce, R. Kerry Turner, Walter Stahel, the architect William McDonough and chemist Dr Michael Braungart all significantly contributed in varying degrees to shaping the Circular Economy as we know it today.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain around 1760, manufacturing was often done in people’s homes, using hand tools or basic machines. Industrialization marked a shift to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production. The iron and textile industries, along with the development of the steam engine, played central roles in the Industrial Revolution, which also saw improved systems of transportation, communication and banking.
While industrialization brought about an increased volume and variety of manufactured goods and an improved standard of living for some, it also resulted in often grim employment and living conditions for the poor and working classes¹.
This shift in the modes of production is now called the linear economic model (take natural resource, make products, then waste) and not only will planet earth, eventually, run out of natural raw materials to extract and manufacture into consumer products we are also being overwhelmed by waste. This is how the Circular Economy grew into a coherent set of guidelines for sustainability.
The foundations of the Circular Economy lie with understanding Cradle-to-CradleProducts are manufactured with safe materials that can be continuously recycled the Butterfly diagram (see Circular Economy for details) and the Circular Product Design Model (see Circular Design for more details).
Making a commitment is the first step and although the optimum position for a company is to establish a cross-functional team to begin the transition to Circular Economic principles most company’s are not large enough for a dedicated team. Regardless of the size of the company, a company does need leadership (preferably from the CEO) and staff for implementation as they review the internal and external requirements. Therefore a team should meet regularly to review progress and identify bottlenecks as part of an ongoing commitment towards Circularity.
The Eight Skills for a Circular Team
1. Entrepreneurial and Development Skills
Is your team able to create business models with a focus on the future and Circular thinking?
2. Innovation Aimed at Products and Services
Does the team have an eye on the benefits for the end user or is he/she focused on technical issues?
4. Future Orientated and Out-of-the-Box
Is your team future oriented and do they focus on the solutions of tomorrow?
5. Celebrate Diversity
Does your team see the value of diversity in social, economic and ecological contexts, and do they know what it means for the stability, resilience and quality of the organization?
6. Address Insecurities
Is your staff and management team able to challenge or address insecurities: insecurities, ignorance, denial and create positive action.
7. Design Circular Systems, Products and Services
Designing directly or guiding the designers with a focus on the quality of Circular thinking and taking care of innovations is an ability your company can enhance through internal discussion and connections with stakeholders.
8. Creative, Innovative and Connected
Creating a sense of openness for new solutions and looking for other network arrangements transforms the Circular Team professionals into cooperative thinkers. That is what you need for management, sales and product/service development.