At the stroke of midnight, the Decade of Action started. This decade it leads up to 2030 where the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved. Around the world, accelerated efforts are made. And circular economy and design thinking is a way to speed up sustainable development.
Just like individual taking action on their new year’s resolutions, companies can take great steps to become more sustainable and secure their long-term position.
The Umbrella Institute started the Action Decade with a circular economy session ‘Circles in the Sand’ and discussed how companies can move away from a non-linear business behaviour and focus on designing products and services that are fundamentally designed for long-time usage and can be updated and mended with minimal energy and resource input.
‘The trends of the new decade will be focusing on experiences and tailored services rather than owning items’, Anne Marie Thodsen, Managing Director of The Umbrella Institute notes. ‘The younger generation is already separating themselves more from the physical items and are eager to rent and lease products, rather than purchasing and owning them’. The effects are highly visible in the UAE where customers demand sharing services more and more.
Companies have to shift their behavior from selling an item one time, to considering themselves the co-creator and a partner for making the item usable for many customers over time. This means thinking in loops and cycles, where partners in different parts of the products life cycle partake in making the product continue its ability to function.
Designing for the Afterlife
The keynote speaker Isabella Holmgaard, Head of Nordic Circular Hotspot at the Lifestyle & Design Cluster in Denmark, shared her insights on circularity and changing business behaviour and in terms capturing new customers, innovate on the product portfolio and create added value for the companies who make the effort of strategically reviewing their work.
Isabella Holmgaard says ‘Going circular and building a regenerative economy is not a one-step process. It takes concentrated efforts from the initial design phase through to production, sales and in the supply chain and partnership dimensions.’ And she continued ‘Working non-linear is about designing for the afterlife. A product currently has one life then off to the landfill. In a circular economy, the resources will be reworked and made into new similar products that will also have the highest level of quality and durability and attractive designs.’
Shift from waste to resources
Representing Dulsco, the leading Emirati integrated solutions provider, Aruna Narayanan, Head of Environmental Solutions Strategic Initiatives, highlighted how companies ‘can rethink their approach to waste and consider the materials resources, even when it has been used once’. She showcased how Dulsco supports its customers to make the right decisions when handling the materials. ‘Currently, we are at the end of the linear behaviour, but Dulsco is increasingly working as a resources facilitator, and is thus becoming a vital partner at many points of the product lifecycle’.
For many companies, a non-linear behaviour opens up to great business cases. An example is to transform from being at the end of the line, and instead being a valued partner for companies when supplying resources for their production in different parts of the loop.
Sandhya Prakash, Founder & Managing Director, Beacon Energy Solutions & Technology has seen that there is a great impact to changing business behaviour, but also that continued communication is key to having the consumers and companies connect the dots and understand the high value in the new ways of working. Beacon has successfully developed an energy-saving and renewable energy model called MARS for this region which is understandable by engineering team, CEOs and finance teams of private companies to help save electricity and water consumption in buildings.
Sceptics need not worry
In regards to the sceptics, who find that the future of circularity and co-creation might devalue the worth of their products and services, this is rather opposite, Anne Marie Thodsen explains. ‘Consumers actively engage, both in the media and with their peers about products and wish to find the best-suited items that match their lifestyle. And they are willing to pay more for the right brands in return.’
The Umbrella Institute work with companies who are reviewing their supply chain, their current impact and aligning it with their strategic goals for the near and long-term future. And it is clear that conventions are being broken these days when it comes to adapting to changing consumer behavior, government regulations and supply chain demand.
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