Brands Pursue Sustainability through Circular Economy Initiative


Business leaders, academics and innovators came together at the first annual Circular Economy 100 Summit in London recently to create a “global wrap-up” of the most current thinking on circular economics and accelerate the transition to that model over a three year period.

An initiative of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the goal is to “inspire a generation to rethink, redesign and build a positive future through the vision of a circular economy” as an alternative to our current traditional linear economy—make, use, dispose.

Dame Ellen MacArthur said about the launch of her Foundation in 2010, “if we don’t have an entire generation of young people leaving education realizing what’s possible, seeing what’s possible, and then seizing what’s possible, this cannot happen at the scale that’s needed.”[more]

Combining sustainability, access and education, the CE100 Summit launched in February, committed to the idea that “more value can be gained from collective problem solving than can be achieved by working alone.”

McKinsey estimates the global value of resource efficiency could reach $3.7 trillion annually, resulting in “an aggregated economic benefit of $10 billion by 2015.”

Several companies have signed on to the initiative, including a handful of sustainability leaders that are featured on Interbrand’s Best Global Green Brands 2013 report, including Coca-Cola, Philips, IKEA, H&M and Cisco.

H&M, which has already adopted many aspects of the circular economy into its H&M Conscious action plan, said, “A circular economy requires innovation of material and product reuse, as well as related business models. By using materials more effectively, economic growth will eventually be detached from the use of natural resources and ecosystems. In such an economy, the lower use of raw materials allows to create more value.”

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, and Wendy Schmidt, President of the Schmidt Family Foundation joined MacArthur to launch the Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship program which brings together post-graduate students and academics from leading universities across Europe, India and the US for a year-long study of circular economy innovation.

Wendy Schmidt called the first class “the first wave of what we intend will be a systematic movement of young people, thinkers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and future business leaders who will go into our higher educational institutions and come out from there into the industries and institutions that shape our world.”

Eric Schmidt, a vocal advocate for innovative thinking on circularity said in a press release, “If you take a look at the circular economy, our ideas are still not good enough. We need the next level of innovation to create the subtle strategies needed to scale this up. We need to find people who can do multiple things, who can solve systematic problems—and invest in them. When you think about the circular economy, information is the key enabler—mapping out material flows, data mining and exchange. For Google this is a pretty big deal. Our role is to promote this discussion and provide a platform for dialogue.” 

Schmidt further noted that much of the expertise needed to move towards a circular economy is inherent in the next three to five billion people who will come online by 2018. “The regenerative economy is the only way to go [where] ultimately, goodness will have a brand. We don’t have another planet to move to—at least not yet.”