If you haven’t heard of the Circular Economy, you soon will. There’s a lot of buzz around this concept as a solution to the “take make waste” paradigm that has dominated global economic activity since the industrial revolution:

A circular economy is a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. In contrast to the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, a circular economy is regenerative by design and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The so-called Butterfly Diagram illustrates the alternative: the linear model of extraction, production, use, and disposal is transformed by both technical and biological loops that recirculate products, their components, and raw materials–not to mention embodied energy and water–to dramatically reduce negative environmental impacts and align economic activity much closer with the zero waste example that nature provides.

The 3 principles of Circular Economy are straightforward:

  1. Design out waste and pollution
  2. Keep materials and products in use
  3. Regenerate natural systems

However, these principals have far-reaching implications for an economy that depends on inexpensive, highly polluting fossil fuel and extractive industries to maintain high rates of consumption and waste. In fact, the transition to a Circular Economy will not only require a fundamental reimagining of product design, but also of business models, energy production and supply, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management systems, as well as customer mindsets and behavior.

Circular Economy is not so much a new concept as it is a new presentation of well-established ideas and strategies including Industrial Ecology, Eco-Efficiency, Natural Capitalism, Cradle to Cradle design, and others. In the scientific literature, it has been critiqued as a popular concept that is “…superficial, unorganized…” and comprised of ideas from “…several fields and semi-scientific concepts” (Korhonen et. al. 2018).

The challenge is clear: if Circular Economy is to fulfill its promise to revolutionize the global economy, it must be practiced within the ecological limits of our planet and meet the social requirements for sustainability as well.

PIK synthesizes cutting-edge thinking around Circular Economy with the proven principles and practices of The Natural Step to ensure that CE strategies are appropriate, cost-effective, flexible and keep your business headed in the direction of sustainability.

Please contact PIK for more information on how we can help you identify and implement sustainable Circular Economy strategies for your business.