The fierce
urgency of
now

A seasoned group of sustainability thought leaders and practitioners, engaging clients committed to making the shift to a Circular Economy business model

We Believe...

In “the fierce urgency of Now” to create an economic future that is in balance with nature

A world in which business and industry respect and harmonize with planetary ecology is possible

It will take transformational change in the global system of commerce to achieve that harmony

That we can shift the linear business model of take, make, use and discard to circular ones that continuously valorize resources

If the linear economic model is an ensemble of parts…the Circular Economy shall be a continuum - Circular Economy Strategist, 2014

A Circular Economy

At the intersection of business and commerce lies the potential for transformational sustainability via the shift to a circular economy. Circular Economy is literally a re-envisioning of the current linear economic model of Take, Make, Use, and Discard. Continuing down this path will only lead to resource depletion and business constraints for all industry sectors. Businesses that can reimagine the linear process will secure their place in an increasingly material competitive environment. The Circular Economy provides a framework for businesses to become integral players in a thriving closed loop business system that moves well beyond eco-efficient, incremental step changes and impact measurement. The fundamentals of a circular economy are to:

  1. Shift towards renewable energy
  2. Aggressively eliminate toxicity
  3. Abolish the notion of waste - while maintaining brand integrity and enhancing reputation, equating to greater profitability
  4. Create stronger and more integrated relationships with suppliers and customers
  5. Build robust logistics systems designed not only for product delivery but also asset recovery

I've known Katherine and her work since 1998, and she is a provocative thought leader and tireless change agent for sustainability. Circular Economy Strategists stands to play a critical role in helping companies develop the principles, strategies and business practices necessary for “circular economy” to transform from a meme to a market.

- Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor GreenBiz Group

"I've worked alongside Minal for several years while serving the GreenBlue Institute Board where his very diverse range of skills and experience helped corporate members of the Institute's Sustainable Packaging Coalition adapt their product designs and compositions for repeated life cycles. It's refreshing that he has chosen to further this effort in assisting those pursuing adoption of the Circular Economy model."

- Scott Seydel, CEO Seydel Companies

Why a Circular Economy

Then and Now

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. - John Muir

Industrial processes since the dawn of the Industrial Age in the mid-18th century have depended on planetary plunder for economic prosperity. The ensuing economic progress and material wealth have left behind a legacy of waste, pollution, toxicity, and systemic degradation. We believe that this track can be changed, while enhancing any company’s economic and brand performance.

Many high demand substances relied on for industrial processes are nearing depletion and may lead to sector failure. Leading companies are acknowledging that business as usual may no longer serve as a long term strategy, recognizing that our planet’s carrying capacity is taxed. At the same time savvy customers, consumers, advocacy groups and the media are steadily demanding more - accountability, transparency, stewardship, and exceptional brand experience. The take, make, use, and discard road to profits is threatened in the resource-constrained future. Companies that make the shift to a Circular Economy will position themselves to out-compete in such a future, while enhancing their brand offerings and customer loyalty.

Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Globally, Circular Economy could save $700B in material costs alone, annually - World Economic Forum, 2014

Today’s material consumption-based economic growth is incredibly wasteful as depicted in this material flow for durable products, non-durable products, and container and packaging waste generated in the USA in 2012. Play with this interactive Sankey diagram by touching the node or flow to see the relative displacement of materials in the municipal solid waste (MSW). For example, to see what makes up the recycled portion of the MSW, touch the Recycling node.

Source: MSW data from USEPA. Sankey graph by Circular Economy Strategists.

A Fork in the Road

The linear production and consumption path that brought a web of environmental woes into the 21st century can be made circular through focused engagement in six core areas.

materials · energy · water · ecosystem · climate change · community

Businesses and industry affect these areas through myriad activities in a global industrial ecosystem. This connectedness can be leveraged to channel material inputs withdrawn from the planet into long term circular flows. Each company must walk the path that suits its corporate culture, its internal timelines, and its unique relationships with supply chain partners, customers and consumers. Progressive public policy can provide incentives that help companies find their way forward.

From Risk to Opportunity

Typically, these six core areas are approached individually, and each represent significant risks to business and community. Yet, the core issues do not exist as standalone problems. They are fully interlinked as with all of natural ecology. Hence, when viewed as a living system, each core area represents strategic opportunities to leverage circular economy principles to drive out inefficiencies and build in resilience. Resilience is the key to brand strength in the 21st century. It is at the heart of thriving ecosystems and communities - industrial and natural.

Core Issues

Materials

Our current global system of commerce is inextricably tied to finite materials, whether they be raw substances such as minerals and ores, or highly technical materials such as plastics and metals. There is abundant evidence that the linear production and consumption model is exceptionally wasteful.

A circular economy business model, that advocates for Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) in contrast is restorative and:

  • Promotes material stewardship and traceability from cradle (extraction) to factory gate (processing)
  • Endeavors to eliminate toxicity along the life cycle of the material from cradle to grave (disposal at end of useful life),
  • Designs in the end of use fate in mind and moves operations towards zero waste to landfill.

Energy

The fast pace of innovation in a consumptive global society is fueled by ancient sunlight in the form of petroleum, natural gas, and coal, the use of which emit mega-tons of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants. The implications of climate change affected directly by the extraction and burning of fossil energy is poised to affect all living systems on the planet.

  • In the Circular Economy energy is derived by harnessing current or new sunlight as well as wind, water and other renewable sources of power.

Water

Although the Earth is predominantly a water planet, water availability vary greatly by region exhibiting abundance and scarcity. The effects of climate change, pollution, litter, flow diversion and temperature changes are leading to drastic shifts in quality, quantity, and availability for humans and the co-inhabitants of the planet.

  • Best practices in the Circular Economy will minimize water usage while optimizing opportunities for recovery, reuse and closed-loop flows,
  • Moves operations towards zero water waste.

Ecosystem

The impacts of industrial pressures on ecosystems globally is irrefutable. The human population projections for the next few decades and subsequent demand for resources will inevitably affect every living system on the planet.

  • Companies that shift to a Circular Economy business model understand the impacts and redesign their resource flows to eliminate these externalities, begin to reverse the damage done and respect the value of ecosystem services.

Climate Change

There is no scientific doubt about the role of humans and their reliance on fossil fuels as the root of global shifts in climate. This central issue may unhinge all other systems including human societies and everything they take for granted.

  • Under Circular Economy, the way energy is consumed and the fuel sources that generates the energy is shifted rapidly to renewable infrastructure.
  • Systems-level resilience is essential for everything from food, water, energy, material resource, communication, transportation and much more.

Community

As developing economies grow so does the impact on communities from linear, non-sustainable industrial practices and business systems.

  • Circular Economy business models create an equilibrium between the social contract to operate in a community and access its local resources with the benefits (health and wealth) it returns to the community. Job creation, living wages, infrastructure development, and education are among the key elements of that social contract, which ensure and guarantee shared value.

Our Approach

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come. - Victor Hugo

We recognize that each company, agency, or organization is at a different place on the path to transformational sustainability, and a one-size-fits all approach will not work. What is needed is the ability to take disparate parts of an organization’s activities and connect the dots between and among seemingly isolated events to create the living mosaic that make up the company’s core products and services.

We are an atypical consulting group. We are interventionists, who value curiosity, creativity, integrity, humor, and continuous learning. We immerse ourselves in your challenges, actively engaging your team and building their capacity. We believe it is essential to maintain perspective under conditions of information overload and time constraints to avoid competition-based approaches to sustainability efforts. Our approach seeks synergies among nontraditional and traditional supply chain partners. Circular Economy is an opportunity to break free of the business as usual approaches to sustainability and create a long-term virtuous cycle of capital building. We are the change agents that will enable your transition whether you are a start-up, a SME, a multi-national corporation, a government agency or a nonprofit organization.

  • We engage with your team in long lasting transformative change, and ensure team learning by doing
  • We work with your internal sustainability champions to build the capacity that can move the circular business model forward over time
  • We catalyze internal momentum to take your brand to the next level of sustainability

Blending of Art and Science

Circular Economy Strategists brings together critical skill sets required to connect the dots related to the issues central to material circularity, and to initiate a shift to a circular product life cycle model. Our approach is interdisciplinary and is deeply rooted in natural ecology.

We blend art with science to craft the path forward. The Art lies in envisioning the potential of a circular material economy with deep understanding of the current linear material flows and what needs to change. The Science is the underpinning of the endeavor and our engagement. Our services draw upon unique intellectual strengths from various fields of study, giving us the ability to integrate relevant information on demand. Our expertise includes:

  • The application of verifiable and rigorous science-based tools including life cycle assessment, benchmarking and footprinting to track progress
  • The development of whole system solutions built on life cycle thinking to drive change through entire supply networks
  • An exceptional cross-functional collaborative and cooperative ethic
  • An interdisciplinary approach to translate complex scientific concepts into concrete business strategies

What We Do

Circular Economy could generate $1 TRILLION a year globally 2025. - Davos, 2014

We engage with clients committed to making the shift to a Circular Economy business model. We offer a systems level strategy that encompasses design thinking, life cycle assessment, material flows analyses, best manufacturing processes, asset retention and/or recovery strategies, forward and reverse logistics planning, and total value chain integration. We ensure your team is also equipped with the tools and resources to continue the transformation and measure performance against benchmarks, collect critical data and communicate progress. In short, we help you think disruptively and move boldly.

A typical engagement might include one or more phases of engagement as mapped here:

  • Phase 1: Conduct a product life cycle and design thinking exercise to identify value chain inputs, outputs and flows, and uncover the best opportunity for a shift to circularity. During this phase we will:
    • identify pathways to smarter sourcing including consideration of material health
    • identify opportunities to convert to or optimize the use of renewable energy
    • map existing sources of inefficiency and waste and define process improvements to eliminate them including ways to create and maximize by-product synergies
    • map new supply chain and customer relationships that will catalyze material circularity
    • highlight opportunities to recover and reutilize valuable assets
  • Phase 2: The development of a circular economy business strategy, based on phase 1 findings. The strategy will layout deliberate tactics and steps that will enable a circular economy transition including the identification of internal champions to lead the effort and learn by doing.
  • Phase 3: Implementation of a pilot project to demonstrate proof of strategy and document learned lessons.
  • Phase 4: Measure success of the pilot project, having baselined the former linear process, establishing key performance indicators and data collection protocols.
  • Phase 5: Based on the lessons learned in phase 3 and the performance assessment in phase 4, identify replication opportunities and a roadmap for the ramp up to a full transformation.

We also provide the services listed below to government agencies and other interested organizations.

  • Location specific Circular Economy opportunities research and recommendations.
  • Industry sector opportunity mapping.
  • Policy consulting focusing on overcoming existing hurdles to material recovery.
  • Industrial symbiosis services geared toward linking emerging innovators to businesses that can utilize and leverage their offerings in circular business models.
  • Tools and resources for both the public and private sector to expedite the transition to a more circular system of commerce.

Our Services

CE Strategy

We work with you to identify the highest value actions for your specific needs. Depending on the complexity of the supply chain, product and service offerings, an initial strategic plan can be in place within 5-15 weeks. Activities can include:

  • process and supply chain map to identify hot spots
  • identify strategic beyond compliance practices
  • reverse logistics and relationship development
  • strategic road map of priority activities, success metrics, and value creation

Material Management

Materials are at the heart of the economy. Circular economy principles can identify efficiency and asset management opportunities via...

  • map material use and flows
  • baseline environmental impacts
  • materiality assessment
  • identify byproduct synergies
  • zero waste scenario development

Education and Training

We are can provide custom or packaged training to level the knowledge base of your the workforce to facilitate consistent roll out of strategy, implementation, and marketing plans.

  • business case for Circular Economy
  • Systems Thinking and Sustainable Materials Management
  • design optimization workshop
  • board level circular economy awareness building and education

Design Optimization

One of the strongest lever for product and packaging sustainability is via informed material selection for design alternatives. We can

  • support transition to CE via Design for ______ (reuse, durability, dis-assembly, recycling...
  • environmental profile using screening LCA for design scenarios
  • design workshops and training
  • custom software solution

Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement

Circular Economy challenges can often be met through unconventional collaborative efforts to develop industrial synergies, win-win solutions, that can enhance the ecology of the operations of the various parties involved.

  • identify and develop potential relationship
  • scope development for collaborative effort
  • implementation support
  • event planning/ coordination for internal and industry wide communication

Footprinting and Reporting

Understanding the basic of the environmental and social implications of your operations is essential to tracking progress and adjust strategic actions over time.

  • develop initial baseline of operations (energy, carbon, water, etc.)
  • establish mechanism for annual progress tracking
  • develop and publish strategic reports for disclosure and communication

About

We are a seasoned group of sustainability thought leaders and practitioners with shared core values of curiosity, creativity, integrity, humor, and continuous learning. These values guide and empower us to envision a better world in the face of seemingly overwhelming environmental and social challenges.

Mission

Drive transformational change in the global system of commerce by shifting linear business models and systems to circular ones.

Vision

A world in which business and industrial systems respect and harmonize with planetary ecology.

Circular Economy Strategies brings together more than 30 years of experience in sustainability, ecology, technology and policy backgrounds, along with practical insights into material flows, supply chain communication, data collection and reporting, design flow evaluation, sustainability strategy, corporate social responsibility, life cycle analysis, material hazard assessment, technology, software solutions, and recycling.

Our expertise comes from our work with leading sustainability organizations including Business for Social Responsibility, Environmental Defense Fund, U.S. EPA, and others. Since 1992 our principals and associates have advised leading brands like Alcoa, Armstrong, Avery Dennison, Burt's Bees, Clorox, Coca Cola, Danone, Domtar, Dow, Havi Global, Johnson & Johnson, Kingfisher, Kraft, McDonald's, Merck, NASA, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP), Nestle/Nespresso, Nike, Rocky Mountain Soap, SC Johnson, Stonyfield Farms, Target, and West Marine . . . We'd like to work with you to bring to life your circular economy ambitions. Let's talk.

WE ARE...

Katherine O'Dea

Katherine is a seasoned sustainability professional with 20 years of experience working with business and industry. Circular Economy Strategists was founded in 2014 to engage businesses, governments and NGOs in the creation of a more sustainable system of commerce catalyzed by a transition from linear take-make-use-discard business models to more resilient and circular models. Katherine enjoys helping clients maximize material investments by eliminating the notion of waste and developing cross supply chain synergies that enable continuous material valorization. Her work leverages deep experience and knowledge of design for environment, sustainable materials management, industrial ecology, products of service, and reverse logistics principles. Her core values of integrity, respect, diversity, and equity informs how she engages with internal and external stakeholders in her own business as well as her clients’ businesses.

Contact Katherine: Email · 1-401-816-0200 · @KatherineOdea · LinkedIn

Minal Mistry

Minal brings an ecological sensibility to sustainability strategy and industrial ecology with a background in business, policy, and biological and physical sciences. Minal is a sustainability professional with industry recognized expertise, credibility and sincerity in delivering practical and lasting solutions. His professional experience spans a wide range of technical fields including life cycle assessment (LCA), analytical chemistry, IT/Internet, and technology training. He brings an international perspective and sensitivity to industrial sustainability honed through professional engagements and extensive developing world travel. Minal believes that for sustainability to work for industry, it must work for people first, and is energized to help companies find practical solutions for today's diverse issues. He is a creative who believes that the blending of art and science is essential to creating an enlightened relationship between human systems and nature.

Contact Minal: Email · 1-434-806-9189 · @amistryman · LinkedIn