Circular Economy

Surprise!  The hardest part of building a circular economy isn’t the technology.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s hard enough, but there’s a lot of powerful effort going into the transformation of waste into functional materials.  

To build a truly functional circular economy, two very complex systems are going to have to move forward at the same time.  We’re going to need a consistent supply to meet consistent demand.  And that means our behavior is going to have to change, that is, we’re all going to have to shift how we buy as consumers, and how we deliver waste as suppliers.  

Inspired by a before-times conversation with CAF Member Lee Boman, I’ve been thinking about the circular economy as a stimulus for corporate innovation.  So this Spring when international consultant Jon Goldberg  asked me and Grace Gallardo Oliver to join him in convening an online gathering of his illustrious friends from many regions and industries, I offered the circular economy as a focus. 

Last week we brought Jon’s world together with mine, the CAF community, to get our heads around this concept together — our intention is to kick off a series of even deeper conversations from here! 

Using the CAF model, through both visual and verbal means, the thirty of us needed just 2 hours to dive into no less than 5 big questions:  Who’s here — what resources do we have in the room?  What, in fact, _is_ a circular economy?  What does the supply chain look like for a circular economy?  In a truly circular economy, how does customer demand work?  Behavioral norms are a crucial component of a circular economy — how can we influence and shape those norms?  

We’re grateful to Jon, to our fabulous graphic artist and extreme listener Abby VanMuijen, and to three leaders we tapped to lead our three key content questions.  Ann Carpenter, leader at the port-based incubator Braid Theory, hosted our supply chain discussion, keying off with the adventures of a flip-flop, the most common footwear in the Global South.  Noshua Watson, who runs the sustainable apparel startup community Interwoven, held the host seat for our conversation about customers, demand, and verification.  And Eddan Katz of the World Economic Forum hosted the topic of norm-shaping.  

We’ll be sharing the groups’ findings and Abby’s fabulous graphical videos over the next few weeks as our plans for the Circular Economy unfold.  In the meantime, we’ll share one more drawing here (with our avatars on the platform — thanks to Jon G for creating the space!).   

Who was there

Between the CAF community and Jon’s world, we covered Europe and the US; job functions from CEO to private equity, professor to consultant, strategy, product, marketing and digital transformation.  And we’re in the chemical industry, the apparel industry, the building industry … and the innovation industry, if we can call it that.  

Per the Chatham House Rule we’ll hold attendee names close.  If you were there and choose to share that, please comment below!  And if you weren’t there but we should include you next time, please comment below!  


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