The Circular Economy
Two weeks ago, I joined The Ellen MacArthur Foundation on a MOOC created especially for executive education. I met them personally while doing my MBA in Italy. They are moving worldwide to create awareness on the importance of Circular Economy.
Since I love the subject, I thought about sharing my thought after 2 weeks of classes.
As you all know, the world faces a lot of challenges nowadays:
- Soil degradation, fisheries exhaustion, over stration of water and so on.
- We also have overpopulation and overcrowded cities (something I saw first hand while living in India),
- A huge amount of unemployment, especially among youth (Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain are clear example).
- An aging population that is inverting the pyramid (in Italy, the average age goes down only because of foreigners, otherwise Italy would be as old as Japan)
- Growing private and public indebtedness.
In order to solve all of this issues, economy has to move from a linear productivity into a circular one, in which the added value stays inside a loop that re-uses the materials employed.
Instead of working on models based on machinery, the circular economy gets inspire on nature and living systems that have a regeneration of capital, effective flows and optimizing system conditions.
This biological and technical sides are meant to face a world full of feedback which is interdependent and deeply connected.
This is were a “cradle to cradle” idea comes from.
Companies such as Herman Miller have come with super efficient solutions that reutilize materials in a very smart way:
“Made of 33% recycled materials, it has no PVC in its construction. It’s 96% recyclable and disassembles easily. Its upholstery contains no foam and is completely recyclable when the chair reaches the end of its useful life. It adheres to McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) Cradle to Cradle Design Protocol.”
Circular Economy is based on:
- Design Waste Out: Refurbished and disassembly
- Build resilience through diversity: Modular, versatile and adaptive.
Rely on energy from renewable sources:
- Think in systems: Understand how parts influence one another within a whole to parts.
- Waste is food: Re-introduce products and materials back into the biosphere through restorative loops.
This cradle to cradle idea is quite interesting since it keeps waste out of the value stream, it creates new jobs and shifts the way of thinking.
This design philosophy considers all materials involved in industrial and commercial processes to be nutrients separated in two main categories: technical and biological.
Here we take natures metabolism and adapt it into technical metabolism flow of industrial material, which understand the molecular composition of materials used in creating a product and therefore how they can be re-utilized. From this point on, product design can be done to create continuous recovery and reutilization of materials as if they were biological and technical nutrients.
William McDonough -creator of the cradle to cradle idea- says: “Are we planning to destroy systematically the planet?”. What is the plan to solve this? Here is where the less is more comes in. If we design processes and products that employ matter in a better way, we can be more effective and smart in the way we work and therefore save money, employees and improve overall processes.
I personally remember Yvon Chouinard talking about how Apple lock us with its program obsolescence idea in which we cannot open iPhones and repair them. They just died by not upgrading to a newer iOS. At the end we only have a brick. What if Apple started thinking about a modular phone just like Nokia did? What about sharing economy?
How do we eliminate waste? Well, this is what I'm doing every wednesday with people from all over the world.