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Author's profile photo Michael Mulder

Design for Circular Economy

What comes to your mind first when you hear, circular economy or when you read the title for this blog. It’s probably what you see in this picture, recycling. I have learned that recycling is the end of the process, and there are so many possibilities before to create a full circular economy. Where did I learn this? OpenSAP course Design for a Circular Economy. It just started, and I strongly recommend it.

I won’t spoil the entire first week, but an interesting question came to my mind while going through the course material. How can we get the freedom to design and test more radical and circular ways of doing business. Let me unpack the question a bit, I see this from the perspectives of a company, a designer, and an idealist. (Yes, there are many more)

For a company, there is such pressure to perform each quarter, increase revenue, profits, customer count, etc. How can that be balanced with the need to innovate and prepare yourself for the next 20 years of business. If a company must make major investments for this to happen, management must ignore the stock price, like SAP did a couple years ago, but before that the management needs to feel secure and confident enough. Many companies, many stockholders, just want to keep the profits flowing and not change things up for something that might create profits in 3 to 5 years.

For idealists, it is all about the long-term projected outcomes, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. How can anyone say no, when 50% improved efficiency awaits or revenue per square kilometer goes up 500%! In between, you have designers who want the chance to be creative, spend time doing the research for improving products and customer satisfaction, plus a host of other things. But reality is that time is something they don’t have, and freedom is something suggested but no encouraged.

I think for idealists, patience and perseverance need to be in focus. Celebrate small victories, encourage, and fight for positive change, and be positive. One of the topics, in week one of the course, was about farming; I know a few farmers, and if you want them to change the way they operate, you better be ready for a long, slow process. They need support, they need you to understand them, their needs, and change is scary. It’s normal, many people feel this way, especially when your business and ability to provide for your family is at stake.

For companies, I will go out on the limb of…many don’t know where to invest. There are so many ideas, so many companies trying to sell the next revolution in supply chain, production, sustainability, or HR, it’s crazy sometimes. Government regulations and investors are starting to push investment in certain directions, for example ESG. But a lot of people have a very limited understanding of what ESG is, if you don’t believe me, go check out a YouTube comments section.

I work in product compliance, which on its face, doesn’t seem like a place to find a topic like ESG. But there is growing intersection between the 2 topics and a very recent one you can read about is supplier due diligence. Product marketability is a major product compliance topic, and is becoming a big part of ESG because investors want companies to act responsibly with regards to human rights, for example. Now we are seeing more investors caring about use of lower impact ingredients or being carbon neutral in production.

To make a long story short, I learned a ton from the first week of the course and it has increased my desire to learn more about circular economy. Join me and thousands of other people learning about Design for a Circular Economy.

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