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business models, strategies and technologies

Constructing a mindset for describing the circular economy

Rethinking how to describe the circular economy – the Circular Design Guide provides a language for thinking that makes it easier to act

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently teamed up with world-renowned design and consulting company IDEO to bring forth a “design guide” intended to help companies (and other organisations) design their processes and procedures for the circular economy. Not surprisingly, it’s entitled the Circular Design Guide.

They say this online resource is targeted at “innovators, entrepreneurs and corporate change-makers” keen to understand and implement circular innovations better within the context of day-to-day operations. The guide was given a high-profile unveil at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018.

screenshot from Circular Design Guide


There are natural limitations to what can be done with products, services and systems based on the traditional “take, make, dispose” model that mankind has used for millennia. Circular design refers to the creation of products and services whose life cycles no longer have any clear-cut beginning, middle and end. In a circular economy, materials are instead recovered, regenerated and reused. They therefore contribute less waste, and can actually add value to the ecosystem. 

Building a mindset builds action

The Circular Design Guide is intended to help accelerate the process of transition to the circular economy. A pivotal feature of how it does this lies in providing a credible mindset and coherent vocabulary that make it easier to get started, maintain momentum and make sure that participants can identify and use the many new conceptual premises involved.

With the Circular Design Guide, it’s easier than ever to get started

Unfortunately, a lot of the discussion about individual elements in circular economy thinking drowned in buzzwords and smartspeak. Much of the narrative and good intentions were massively devalued by the hype, greenwash and bull-blurb created by advertising/PR smokescreens and corporate disinformation.

Swapping out a few words and introducing a few new concepts isn’t enough to build a credible, coherent narrative that provides a comfortable, jargon-free basis for people to get started. The Circular Design Guide does that – convincingly, IMHO.