Where do we begin?

Design for a circular economy. What is it and where do we begin?

I’ll admit I have a few books on the topic in my bookshelf that are briefly read. I’ve seen the diagrams. I’ve bookmarked the articles. I understand it in principle, and whenever working to apply the methods I have a feeling that something is missing. That something has a lot to do with the beginning. What are we working on, with whom will we work with, and what is something that we feel proud we’ve made. The beginning is the part that I’ll be investigating as a starting point.

For an entrepreneur, starting a company is both a daunting as well as exciting opportunity to create something that’s reset for today’s needs. Not only in what the new company provides in terms of products and services, but how it provides them. What type of team do they create and what’s the entity of the company itself. Over the years we’ve been in the process of constantly redesigning companies for new needs, and now is a perfect time to rethink the design of a company in its entirety from the beginning.

I’ve been following the progress of one new company named Circulove. It’s a small group of people working to create a new company with contemporary operating principles. The name derives from their love of designing for a circular economy. Trying to do the right thing from the beginning considering the climate crises. Their story goes a bit like this. A few years ago there came a series of important questions starting with “What can I do?”, while reflecting on everything that’s happening in the world. Then following with a question of “What if?” and leading to “Where do we begin?”. This sequence of questions is familiar. A lot of us are asking ourselves the same things because more than eighty percent of the environmental footprint is often decided right from the beginning of the design phase. The important part then is to take it from questions to actions, and that’s the part which is the most difficult to do.

The founders reflected on what they can do best based on their experience. Their background was in the well-being industry and design, and particularly skincare which became the starting point. Their intention was to build a business that is profitable, with a new operating model based on shared value creation. Design for a circular economy became the main operating model. One thing became clear right from the beginning. Working with this operating model is a lot more difficult than it seems. A main insight from this beginning is that the team members of the new company needed to be selected based on skills, but more importantly their values. Do they all believe in what the new company wants to create in a redesign of how a company operates. Because it’s really hard to do and requires a high degree of endurance stamina and principles. Those principles are constantly being questioned and it’s easy to break points in the cycle. Any compromise in creating the company from beginning creates a break in the flow. And if the employees don’t believe in what they’re doing, it’s easy to fall back on a default model.

The beginning is formed based on the people that create the organization. Their values create the operating principles and drive for sustaining the hard work that’s needed to make it happen. Every small action that the organization takes is part of designing the company for a circular economy. It’s the endurance effort behind these small actions that creates and continues the full circle loop. After some time, working this way becomes the norm because that’s the way that the company began. The beginning becomes the present.

by Jeremiah Tesolin

November, 2020

Photo credit to Jeffrey Czum @pexels

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