What comes around goes around

Unlocking the potential of a circular economy

“Not what we think will be, nor what we fear will be, but what could be” (WBCSD, 2010, p.3). The World Business Council of Sustainable Development’s policy document speaks in a language of potentiality – Sustainability is an opportunity.

For those not convinced let’s get down and talk numbers: According to the WBCSD business opportunities in the areas of natural resources, health and education alone, will have a magnitude of US$ 3-10 trillion per annum in 2050, furthermore according to McKinsey estimates the clean tech product market will reach a volume of US$ 1.6 trillion by 2020 (Bonini & Görner, 2011, p.2).

In the future smarter systems, smarter people, smarter designs and smarter business will prevail. Thus, let us try to be smart for a moment:

Step 1: Hate waste
Step 2: Think of something you throw away.
Step 3: Think of what else you (or somebody) could do with it.
Step 4: Don’t throw it away, make it a business opportunity.

Let me give you a case study to illustrate: Crop Mobster is a community exchange platform which leverages social media and instant alerts to quickly spread the word about local food excess and surplus from any supplier in the food chain. So far it has saved more than 1,000,000 pounds of premium local food going to waste. It demonstrates that there is no reason why we can not do something good while earning a profit. The concept of a circular economy illustrated here is widely transferable. It is only four steps to make an impact, and it is only four steps to generate a business idea.

You don’t have to start by hating waste, you can start by hating inefficiency, hate inequity, or just hate the status quo. What I realized while reading in preparation of the WBSCD meeting in Paris is that potential is all around us. Turning your eyes towards Paris, seeing the challenges they are facing, will inspire ideas and thereby will already fulfil one of its missions to inspire sustainable entrepreneurship.

By Ferdinand Weiler


WBCSD (2010) ’Vision 2050’ (February 2010)
Bonini, S & Görner, S. (2011) ‘The business of sustainability: Putting it into practice’
Crop Mobster: sfbay.cropmobster.com


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