The circular economy goes round and round and round and round…
In keeping with the weather, let’s do a little ‘blue sky’ thinking for a while.
Nature is the master of creating systems. Solar systems. Biological ecosystems. Mysterious subatomic systems. All spinning away as part of one vast organic Universal system seemingly without end. It’s like the Circle of Life, Simba. And like life, the Circular Economy is an accumulation of circular business models. These include the whole ‘sharing economy,’ which means AirBnB, Uber, and the lovely yellow bikes in OFO. These are part of the P2P business models, peer to peer, connecting people across a platform to share stuff. Like homes, cars, lawnmowers, and money. Other mindsets of a circular economy are the recycling of waste, as directly as possible. This could even mean converting waste from a system into energy to power that system. Like Disney World, which turns food waste from restaurants into bio fuels to power rides. Or agricultural businesses, which converts corn husks into fuel for tractors. The more integrated the better. Other Circular economy principles are design lead. Making products with the recycling of them in mind. In practice this means not mixing different materials unnecessarily, designing consumer technologies to be easily upgradable rather than disposable, not using plastics for items which are used for a second and last ten thousand years. We really have to take this stuff more seriously, unstainable business, which is what we currently think is normal, plus unsustainable population growth plus the knock on effects of climate change and ecological disruption, well let’s no go there life fans.
Sometimes business processes end up in a rather straight line, linear business models creating a linear economy. Design, Manufacture, Sell, leads on to Buy, Consume, Dispose. These simplistic and somewhat primitive systems are finite, often grossly inefficient, (80% of the value of the multitrillion dollar consumer goods industry is ultimately lost) frequently entirely pointless, (plastic cracker fillers) and often have a clear final destination, a landfill, the end result of all that effort and labour and resources dumped back into the environment. We even refer to the participants in this process as ‘consumers’, a rather derogatory and reductive label. Yet it’s what we become when we’re positioned at the end of a pipeline of stuff. So what’s the alternative? How can our business economy, including our financial services, become more Circular, more efficient, more intelligent? And in the process, more ethical, more sustainable, fairer, and even more profitable, as we as customers choose more and more ethical alternatives. How can we, beautiful unique snowflake starfishes as we are, rise above the parasitic status of consumers and spread our wings as glorious participants in the beautiful game of life? To mash metaphors.
We could consider microfinance, and microlending. Organisations such as LendWithCare.org and MicroLoanFoundation.org.uk enable us to lend as little as ten pounds to individual farmers in Zambia and entrepreneurs in Cambodia, to enable them to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. A brilliant way to invest whilst transforming lives for good.
We can also lend to local businesses in this country, again, through a peer to peer system, there’s several, like Leeds based fintech RebuildingSociety. We can choose green electricity, like from Bulb and website hosting from companies like Green-hosting. Rather than the cheapest, sometimes we could choose the most. Circular. Sometimes this might cost a few pence more, but the cost of not doing is far greater when we factor in people and planet. The good news is it’s all already happening around us. Even motor cars are gradually being replaced with electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels dot the landscape, and more and more businesses are seeing the winds of change towards long term ethics and sustainability and are redesigning what they do with that in mind.
Where is it all heading? It’s impossible to know, but here’s one very possible future, with regards to financial technology and the circular economy. Imagine if we all had our own digital currency, just like we have our own email and Facebook accounts. Imagine if we were automatically given 20,000 coins on every birthday, all our lives, from birth, and we could trade with each other, and across digital markets, with these digital coins.
It would still be possible to earn as much as you wanted, or could, in traditional currency, and many people would. But by having our own cryptocurrencies, each unique to ourselves, but each worth the same as everyone else’s, no one would be in poverty. Think I’m dreaming? I’m not the only one.