Monday, February 9, 2015

Circles are good for the economy

Contrary to what your mother may have told you, going in circles is sometimes a good thing. When it comes to our economy, it is actually a great thing.

Throughout history, society has built itself up by transforming raw materials into finished, usable products. This manufacturing process has always been linear in that:

  1. Materials (sand, iron, gold, etc.) are evaluated for purpose and taken from nature.
  2. Modified and refined as necessary, these materials are combined and recombined into the services and products we use every day, until…
  3. Their usefulness to society wanes and the everyday products and services are disposed of in a heap of useless trash.
This linear “take, make, dispose” model uses large quantities of easily accessible resources and energy. It is also inefficient and wasteful. Enter the “circular economy.”

“The circular economy refers to an industrial economy that is restorative by intention; aims to rely on renewable energy; minimizes, tracks, and hopefully eliminates the use of toxic chemicals; and eradicates waste through careful design. The term goes beyond the mechanics of production and consumption of goods and services, in the areas that it seeks to redefine (examples include rebuilding capital including social and natural, and the shift from consumer to user).” – Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The circular economy concept has gained momentum since the late 1970s and has six general schools of thought:

  • Regenerative design –  interdisciplinary field of inquiry concerned with a sustainable future
  • Performance economy – the vision of an economy in loops (or circular economy) and its impact on job creation, economic competitiveness, resource savings, and waste prevention
  • Cradle to cradle – focuses on design for effectiveness in terms of products with positive impact and reducing the negative impacts of commerce through efficiency.
  • Industrial ecology – the study of material and energy flows through industrial systems
  • Biomimicry – a discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems
  • “Blue Economy” –  uses the resources available in cascading systems and the waste of one product becomes the input to create a new cash flow
All this goes to say that circular economies are efficient, and efficiency is good for us all. That is why we should all applaud the individuals and companies that were honored at the 2015 Circular Economy Awards. The Circulars, as they are more commonly called, are given at an annual event that recognizes individuals and enterprises from commerce, civil society and academia that have made a notable contribution to driving circular economy principles.

The Fortune Award for Circular Economy LeadershipSir Ian Cheshire
The Fortune Award for Circular Economy LeadershipJanez Poto?nik
The YGL Award for Circular Economy EntrepreneurshipMethod
The Accenture Award for Circular Economy PioneerDell Inc.
The BT Award for Circular Economy Digital DisruptorTradeshift
The Ecolab Award for Circular Economy Cities / RegionsDanish Business Authority
By winning the Circular Economy Pioneer award, Dell has established a high bar for those in the IT industry. Because the circular economy is an essential component of the company’s vision, the company continually finds ways to minimize the impact of its manufacturing process on the environment.

In following this path, Dell implemented a major redesign across engineering, industrial design, procurement, logistics and marketing, which resulted in the use of post-consumer recycled plastics in its products. Dell also developed the first computer to use certified closed-loop recycled plastics. By setting this important precedent, Dell is using its position as one of the leading global technology vendors to move standards, infrastructure and international policies toward a circular economy.

(This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. To learn more about tech news and analysis visit TechPageOne. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.)

Bookmark and Share

Cloud Musings
( Thank you. If you enjoyed this article, get free updates by email or RSS - © Copyright Kevin L. Jackson 2012)