In 2015 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published The Financial System We Need – Aligning the Financial System with Sustainable Development as an attempt to encourage an alternative economy which is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Precisely, rethinking the global economic system seems like an essential change in a world striving towards sustainable development. The UNEP is talking about a “quiet revolution” in order to transition into a green economy, where social and environmental aspects will be integrated into the existing financial system.
On the other hand, circular economy has been another interesting alternative concept. In 2002 William McDonough and Michael Braungart published Cradle to Cradle, a book that challenges the discourse of production and consumption of ‘cradle to grave’ manufacturing. They suggest that the industrial system should instead mimic the global ecosystem, where every product or material is a valuable resource and nothing is discarded as waste. They argue that applying this framework to the current economy will require a complete rethinking of business models, product design, and product removal. In the design phase of a product, it is crucial to consider what will happen to the product after its use and how the materials can be re-used. The main problem is that many products are a hybrid between the biosphere and the technosphere, which challenges the recycling process. Another crucial point made by McDonough and Braungart is rethinking the idea of ‘products of consumption’ which implies ownership. Circular economy fundamentally defies this concept and focuses on renting, leasing and services. Reshaping the economy into circular models can be an effective way of addressing environmental issues, as it encourages lowering the production of natural resources and decreasing greenhouse gas emission, as well as reducing soil and groundwater pollution from toxic landfills.
William McDonough TED talk about Cradle to Cradle design
H&M applying circular economy in their business model
If you found these videos inspirational and would like to find out more about future trends, we have compiled a list of links that will give you a more thorough understanding of the topic. For further information on circular economy and the fashion industry contact the author, Ida.
- World Economic Future: Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.
- Ellen Macarthur Foundation: Foundation Towards the Circular Economy
- UNEP: The Financial System We Need – Aligning the Financial System with Sustainable Development