Circular economy - interview with an expert

In this article Anneli Selvefors, PhD in human-technology-design gives her recommendations about circular economy and shares her thoughts about the topic. Anneli has been researching at Chalmers University of Technology about how circulation of products can be adressed from a user-focused view and what challenges and possibilities circularity brings from a design perspective. Now, she has started her own business, Forming Futures, where she wants to support companies in their work with sustainability and circular economy.

Anneli, you run your own business Forming Futures that has the goal to support companies with sustainability and circular economy. Why do you think that it is important that companies start working with these questions?

We have 10 years left to reach the goals of the Agenda 2030 and avoid the disastrous climate changes that scientists forecast. In order to be successful it's not sufficient to only change on an individual level, we have to make bigger changes in the system and in that work the company has a critical role. Those companies that don't change to more sustainable and circular business models will be less relevant on a future market with limited ressources. So I don't think that it's only important, I think it is crucial for surviving. Both for companies and for our society as a whole.

How would you describe circular economy? How is it connected with sustainability?

Circular economy is basically about changing our societal system in a way so that our economy no longer relies on taking virgin resources. Since the earth's resources are limited is our current system not sustainable in a long term; we can't continue to use more resources than our earth can regenerate. Through changing to a circular economy - where we use fossil free energy, take care and circulate our resources and regenerate our ecosystem - our possibilities to stay within our planetary borders increase.

What do companies need to think about if they want to change their business model to a circular one? Are there companies that are more fitted for this change?

There are many different circular business models and which model fits best varies between companies. It depends of course on what type of products they offer, what is attractive for there target group and how mature and how inclined to changes the branch is. There are things to think about and to make decisions about, such as what the company wants to achieve through a change in their business model, in what amount the organisation has to change and how fast a change can or should happen in order to succeed.

Do you have any recommendations to companies that manufacture products, what should they think about in the design phase of their product in order to create the best conditions for a circular business model?

If a companies' business model is about offering products via some kind of service, it is of course important to design both the service and the product in a way that fits the business model. It can be about designing a product so that it is easier to repair or so that it fits good to rent out. There are many different guidelines to follow. It is important to think about as many aspects as possible already in design phase in order to increase chances for a successful implementation.

Do you have any opinions on how to use digitalization in order to make circular economy possible?

Digitalization will probably be important to make the change to a circular economy possible. We already see many different examples of new companies and services that use different digital platforms to circulate products or to make circular offers accessible for consumers. I think we will see a lot more of this type of solutions in the future.


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This article is categorised as Intermediate  |  Published 2020-08-26  |  Authored by Greta Braun