Tighter environmental constraints and resource scarcity are slowly pushing us towards new ways of doing business. The linear model of production, consumption and disposal is eroding – not because of a dawning green enlightenment, but because the economics are beginning to work against it.
The shift towards more circular ways of thinking is an exciting movement to watch, because we’re in the early stages of something that could be truly transformative. So far we just have the frontrunners, little pebbles rolling downhill, but those little pebbles are dislodging the rocks and the rocks will move the boulders.
What’s interesting about the circular economy is that it’s not a futurist dream that depends on huge infrastructure and capital, like the once hoped-for nuclear age and energy ‘too cheap to meter’. Neither is it about advanced technologies, though some will be involved. It’s actually a return to the way nature does things when left to itself – reusing materials, nothing going to waste, new life from old. It’s closer to the way we lived before the circle-breaking discoveries of fossil fuels, plastics, or artificial fertilizer, but we’d be stepping forward from those things rather than stepping back from them.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been a leading voice in this new economy, and they’re organizing a festival of ideas this winter, 20th October to the 14th November 2014. It’s called the Disruptive Innovation Festival, and will look at systems thinking, collaborative consumption, new business models and the transition to a circular economy. “A challenged linear ‘take make and dispose’ economy can be replaced by a more prosperous regenerative and circular economy”, they say in explaining the title. “Is this the ultimate disruption?
The festival will take place online as well as face to face, and facilitation will be offered in Spanish, Chinese, French and Russian as well as English, so it’s aiming for a wide global audience. As well as headline speakers, there’s a practical element, with 250 different ‘labs’ around the world that will tackle real world design challenges together. Given that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has focused a lot of its attention on Davos over the last couple of years, this just the kind of inclusive and open event that we’ve needed to widen the conversation.
You can register for the festival on the website, and here’s the video trailer: