Circular Economy – How can you benefit from thinking circular?
‘Circular economy’ – an increasingly popular concept trending all the way from companies’ marketing campaigns to the European Union’s policies and roadmaps. But what does it have to do with you? More than you think: You are part of circular economy, and acknowledging this gives you a significant competitive edge in your future career.
Circular economy principles
Contrary to what one might initially expect, the circular economy (CE) deals with much more than just recycling! The overall aim of the CE is to replace our current, unsustainable ‘make-take-dispose’ economy with a new kind of economic model that is regenerative by intention and design. As the CE is designed to save the scarce resources of our planet, it is seen as a key for solving the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Thus, the CE is considered as a promising pathway towards a sustainable future business and society.
The overall aim of the CE is to replace our current, unsustainable ‘make-take-dispose’ economy with a new kind of economic model that is regenerative by intention and design.
With our long history with throwaway economy and culture since the industrial revolution, forwarding the CE is challenging us all to rethink our everyday practices. Here, we have three key principles for circularity: slowing, closing, and narrowing material loops. The first one, slowing material loops, aims for extending the lifecycles of existing products through e.g., repair, remanufacturing, and long-lasting product design. Second, closing material loops brings the resources from used products back to re-production instead of turning them into waste. Third, narrowing material loops means that the use of resources is minimized in the production of new products and in their consumption. Application of these three key CE principles touches upon decision-making of companies, policymakers, cities, and individuals, among others.
Enabling efficient circulation of materials and energy according to circular principles requires engagement and collaboration between all members of society – including you.
You are part of the circular economy
Enabling efficient circulation of materials and energy according to circular principles requires engagement and collaboration between all members of society – including you. We all are members of the economic system, and have our role in transforming it to circular, both in our personal and professional roles.
Particularly in professional life, you can have a major impact on forwarding the CE by questioning unsustainable work practices and disseminating circular knowledge in your professional networks. This opportunity applies undoubtedly to us industrial engineering and management professionals, especially when involved in responsible decision-making in material intense businesses and industries as well as in management consultancy. Therefore, all of us need to be aware and understand the circular principles to harness them in our own field of work.
Take advantage of the circular economy transition
Understanding the CE as an emergent economic paradigm provides you an advantage in your professional roles and career. The more companies and public organizations integrate circular thinking and sustainability into their strategies, the more they need to apply circular knowledge, competences, and practices to their operations. Therefore, employers need crucially future professionals who are not only experts in their own industry, but can also provide insights to the CE principles and their implementation in their work. Thus, understanding the CE allows you to build a unique professional profile for recruitment and career development in the era of CE.
To gain the valuable CE expertise for professional purposes, you can dive deeper into circular thinking already during the university studies. As an example, I familiarized with CE in my master’s thesis. Seeing how powerful CE is in transforming business models, strategies, and value networks, I decided to continue strengthening my CE knowledge in doctoral research to be fully prepared to applying CE insights into practice.
Employers need crucially future professionals who are not only experts in their own industry, but can also provide insights to the CE principles and their implementation in their work.
Circular knowledge and competences will be highly beneficial in career development, whether eventually wanting to build a career in industry, consultancy, or academia. Ultimately, combining the understanding of industrial engineering and management with circular business is a strong combination to support any career choice.