May 10, 2019 /Industry

The Circular Economy

There is undeniable pressure for brands to create not just sustainable, but environmentally positive products. From the creation of a product to the materials used in stores, companies are under pressure to perform, and still generate profit.

Brands like Nike, H&M and Unilever are working with The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to “Create a new system that can meet our needs within planetary boundaries”. Disrupting the current system, they champion three key stages that will change the lifespan of products.

The first way they do this is by changing the way they design products; by designing products with pollution lifespan and materials in mind, they ensure pollution is reduced in the first place. Ecoactive is designing packaging out of mushroom, which performs like plastic but is made from crop waste. Italian architect Carlo Ratti used this idea to create structures out of mushrooms for Milan Design Week. The structure could then be returned to the soil when the week was over, a full circle process.

The second is to keep products in use. Designing products that can be reused, repaired and remanufactured. Keeping in mind not only the product but the packaging to ensure that is also part of a cycle that can be reused and repaired.

Netherland based headphone company, Gerrard Street, have created products that can be repaired easily, avoiding glue, so parts can we swapped out or repaired easily. Circular design company, Loop, are also partnering with brands like Haagen-Dazs and Pantene to “Transforms the packaging of your everyday essentials from single-use disposable to durable, feature-packed designs”.

The last is to generate natural systems to improve the environment. In nature there is no waste – by following the same idea and replenishing what we take we can enhance our natural resources.

Nutrient obsessed Ostara, looks to keep a perfect natural balance for crops by managing nutrient flows. The result is an innovative wastewater add-on process and a pure fertiliser product that creates revenue for the business. Ikeas Space10 research lab produced a miniature community that creates its own circular energy. Using solar panels and blockchain, the energy would be shareable, creating a functioning energy system via a neighbour-to-neighbour trading scheme.


Key Insights

  • With the Ellen Macarthur Foundation predicting that US companies could save $700m in annual material, brands should be researching how using a circular economy could not just benefit the environment, but also cut costs.
  • Sustainability and environmental issues are not going away, with protests happening all over the world, including one in London currently lasting 8 days, with no signs of stopping (23/04/19). Brands should consider public opinion and how to approach such a topic with honesty.
  • Generation Z is fully supporting this movement, as well as major economies. Only 30% of urban Chinese Millennial consumers would consider buying new products. Brands need to think about how to create products that help the environment and create loyalty with younger consumers.

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