Tag Archive | circular economy

Going Circular

Event: LOOP Circular case studies, webinar series in May and June 2020

A couple of months ago I participated in a circular design workshop, where I became acquainted with the key concepts of circular design. As the topic was really interesting, it was inspirational to find a webinar series with presentations of concrete cases how to move from linear to circular economy in practise. Webinar series was provided by LOOP which is a Nordic Innovation ecosystem with interest in making companies go circular. It was founded in 2018 as a cooperation between Avanto Ventures, Sitra and Nordic Innovation, and the network is continuously expanding. As circular economy demands partnerships and collaboration, LOOP ecosystem is a response to those demands.

The webinar series, which included four webinars, was held during May and June 2020 and all the cases were extremely interesting and highlighted well different aspects that must be taken into consideration in circular design – for example new business models, importance of collaboration and role of ecosystems. In this blogpost I will go through briefly three cases: case Fiskars Vintage, Omocom and TotalCtrl. In addition to shortly explain the cases, I will focus especially on discussing my main takeaways from the circular design point of view.

Circular into profitable business – Case Vintage from Fiskars

In the first webinar Nora Haatainen, Director, New Business and Growth, from Fiskars Group described how Fiskars Group, an old consumer goods company, has started to create value to the customers through new business opportunities in the circular economy. Fiskars Group has set sustainability targets, which aim to find ways for reusing, reselling, and recycling their main brand products. It was really interesting to hear how a company with a long history of manufacturing moves towards circular economy.

The project that Haatainen explained in her presentation was about one of Fiskars’ main category, tableware, and considered especially brands Iittala and Arabia. The purpose was to find out specifically what kind of aftermarket business opportunities there exists from circular economy point of view. Focusing on the smallest circular loop – reusing and reselling – is logical from the profitability perspective because it retains the value the best way as the products do not demand processing. As any business projects, also circular business projects must be profitable and valuable to the customer in order to be successful in the future. For this purpose, key performance indicators were specified right in the beginning of the project, defining aims for the business perspective as well as customer perspective (Picture 1).

Picture 1. Key performance indicators (Slide from the presentation of Haatainen)

It was interesting to hear the different steps of design process, how it proceeded from ideation, hypothesis creation and co-designing with the customers to business simulation and in the end, selecting four most potential service concepts for piloting. The first new service concept from the project – Vintage Service – is already normal business for Fiskars Group. It allows people to buy and sell old and used Iittala and Arabia tableware products through Fiskars Group’s own retail channels. Currently Fiskars Group has done piloting for another service concept, Arabia Tableware Service, which is a subscription-based tableware service.

For me, the presentation showed well that it is possible to move from linear to circular business models, but it also became clear that there are many challenges along the way. The first challenge is to look beyond the linear model – it requires a fundamental shift in thinking, because circular design demands overcoming the dominant industry logic. Another challenge is to remember that having a circular business model is not good enough, it must work also in practice. Based on the experiences from the project, Haatainen emphasizes the importance of the core team: they should have different kind of skills, a lot of can-do attitude, and they must be empowered. Another advise is to start piloting as early as possible in order to get things to move on – endless discussions will not take you anywhere.

Circular economy demands new solutions – Case Omocom

The other speaker of the first webinar was Ola Lowden, a Founder of Omocom, a Swedish digital insurance solution start-up. The story of Omocom began when the founders worked for Swedish government as digital trade experts and they interviewed big insurance companies about their capabilities to answer to the demands of new consumption types of sharing economy. They found out that insurance companies were not able to adapt their offerings to these new requirements. It became clear that moving towards sharing and circular economy requires a new kind of insurance model, which encourages people to share their belongings.

Based on this, Omocom created a digital insurance solution for sharing platforms. Having an insurance is important for sharing platform providers, as it builds trust between people who do not know each other beforehand. Also, even if damages happen, insurance keeps customers satisfied and willing to continue to use the sharing platform. In the solution, Omocom does collaboration with insurance companies who bear the insurance-related risk, while Omocom takes care for example development of software and insurance solutions.

From sharing and circular economy point of view the founders of Omocom found traditional insurance challenging especially for three reasons (Picture 2).

Picture 2. Challenges with traditional insurance and circular economy (Slide from the presentation of Lowden)

The first challenge with traditional insurance is the model, as the focus and responsibility are only on product owner, not on the product user. This kind of model does not encourage people to share their belongings, especially with strangers. The answer from the Omocom solution is to focus also on product user and provide short-term insurances that are suitable for renting and sharing. The second challenge is that insurance companies are highly dependent on data. If they do not have enough data for risk calculations, they are not willing to take the risk. Omocom deals with this challenge by collaborating with sharing platforms, and based on the data that they provide, Omocom has developed their own risk calculation algorithm, which can be used for risk assessment. Third challenge is that some of the services from insurance companies are still analogue, which makes them quite slow and inflexible, and digital solution responses to these challenges as well.

I think that Omocom is a good example of how moving from linear economy to circular economy creates new business opportunities. There is a need for new kind of solutions and business models, which answer to the demands of circular economy. Also, it clearly showed that in order to make a successful circular business model, it must be a part of an ecosystem of circular business models to ensure the circular flow of resources. This means, that when designing circular business models, the focus should be also on systems level.

Preventing food waste with technology – Case TotalCtrl

The topic of the last webinar was food waste, which was extremely interesting subject for me, as food and eating have been the subject of many of my work projects. From circular economy point of view, the food waste problem is enormous, and solving that is really crucial in the future. Charlotte Aschim, the Founder and CEO of Norwegian start-up TotalCtrl, gave a presentation of how their solution – food waste prevention software called TotalCtrl Restaurant – is tackling the problem in restaurant context (Picture 3).

Picture 3. TotalCtrl Restaurant (Photos from the presentation of Aschim)

The food waste problem became familiar to the founders of TotalCtrl already when working at grocery stores as students. Based on their own experience and later when doing collaboration with different restaurants, they noticed that food waste problem was due to the fact that many restaurants did not have a proper control over their food inventory. The result from this is that food expires quite easily and finding out how much food and what kind of food there exists in storage requires a lot of manual work. It was understood that there is a demand for an easy-to-use digital solution, which helps restaurants to know what kind of food they have in their storage, in which storage it is and when it is going to expire.

Based on the experiences with TotalCtrl Restaurant so far, it seems that it is possible to diminish food waste even up to 85%. In addition, the solution saves time and money, as it simplifies daily routines. For me, TotalCtrl was a good example of how going circular actually can go hand in hand with profitability. Also, it shows that sometimes with right kind of technological solution, it is possible to take a huge step in business and in profitability.

From the perspective of service design, it was interesting to hear the importance of observation in developing and designing the digital solution. Aschim mentioned that although restaurant staff answered to several questions during development work, many things that were important from the perspective of food waste did not come up until doing observation days in restaurants. It seems that many restaurants have inefficient everyday routines, that are taken for granted, and recognizing these could provide opportunities to improve business.

Above I went through just some of the cases which were presented in LOOP webinar series. If you are interested to know more concrete examples from circular economy and circular design, there is a possibility to join to LOOP digital ecosystem where all the cases are available.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

Circle is the new black

Photo from Unsplash

I participated on 19.5.2020 in an online event “Accelerating the shift to circular” hosted by Livework studio, a global service design company, and Metabolic, a Dutch consulting company focused on sustainability and circular economy. The topic of the event was exploring the synergies between service design and industrial ecology, and the importance of moving towards a circular economy.

As we are going through a global pandemic, we are starting to see the long-term impact it has on business. Add to that the environmental crisis that carries even more severe and more long-term impact, and it’s clear that there is an immense urgency for a change to happen.

Companies need to reconfigure their value proposition. In the end, it’s organisations that manage to do so in a sustainable way that will thrive.

From linear to circular

“There is no such thing as a sustainable product. There can only be sustainable product-service systems.”

– Pieter van Exter, 2020

Pieter van Exter from Metabolic talked about the current linear system and the importance of moving to a circular economy or “circularity”.

Linear system is “take – make – dispose”. It’s about taking the raw material, making the product and in the end disposing of it as waste. Circular economy aims to eliminate waste and the constant use of new resources, hence making the life cycle circle.

Van Exter explained the simplified four-step-process of moving from linear economic system to a circular one. The four-step-process starts with analyzing the current state and identifying root causes throughout the whole product life cycle. In step two you set goals and think about the overall vision, not just the financial gain you can get from the product but all the key elements such as social impact, biodiversity, materials, etc. The third step is about identifying interventions and leverage, and figuring out how to get to your goal. Last step is implementation which includes developing business cases and engaging stakeholders.

4 steps of moving to circular economy. Slide from Pieter van Exter’s presentation.

Van Exter highlighted that throughout the whole linear to circular -process, you should constantly iterate and re-think your solutions. The key question you should always ask from yourself in every step is: “do we actually need this?” In short, should we try to make a bamboo version of a plastic straw, or should we rethink the need to even have straws in the first place?

From “can we make it” to “should we make it”

Sanne Pelgröm from service design company Livework studio talked about the evolution of service design and how to design with circular change in mind.

It is important to move from designing for individual needs to designing for the collective. The question in mind should move from “can we make it” to “should we make it” and “can the ecosystem handle it”.

In his work as a service designer, Pelgröm explained that when designing with circularity in mind, you take three aspects into consideration: customer, organisation and the chain collaboration, while simultaneously moving towards a new behavior in all three areas. The key is not just designing a service, but a service process.

Pelgröm also introduced an outline of the journey change in all three sections:

Slide from Sanne Pelgröm’s presentation

In customer segment, the goal is for the customer to evolve from detached consumption to engaged relation with the company.

In organisation level the design is about the general transformation from product oriented approach to more service oriented, essentially moving from cost driven to value driven. In order to do that, it’s important to understand the organizational dynamics: the culture, strategy, processes, etc.

The chain collaboration aspect brings a new layer of dimensions. The goal should be to move from efficiency oriented system into a collaboration oriented. Collaboration could be for example between sectors: two industries sharing cycles can unlock solutions and have a major impact in the overall chain.

Customer in mind

Van Exter reminded that throughout the whole process, you should never forget about the actual end user: the customer. He gave an example of Pepsi’s new type of bioplastic they developed for the packaging of a bag of chips. The product ended up being banned due to being too loud, over 95 decibels.

Pelgröm was asked in the event how to keep circular thinking through the design process, and whether there are specific tools that help you come up with sustainable solutions. Pelgröm recommended that instead of looking for specific tools, you should reach to specialists and involve them in the process and let them contribute. Balancing all aspects early on before it becomes too technical and complicated is key.

The event tackled interesting points about service design, its future and circular economy. There are still a great number of challenges in this area, for instance the majority of companies haven’t stopped thinking in terms of indefinite economic growth, and most targets they have are very much growth-related. Change is never easy and it can’t happen in only one area, but cohesively all around.

Photo from Unsplash

Food for thought:

Kate Raworth’s TED Talk about healthy economy

Tina Arrowood’s TED Talk about circularity

How to facilitate a successful Circular Economy Jam event?

Jam

“As a facilitator, a lot of the success of the Jam relies on your shoulders. Not just helping the team deliver a good, validated concept, but their experience along the way.”
Jesse Grimes – Service designer & Jam’s special guest from Amsterdam

The quotation by Jesse Grimes goes straight to the point. The success of the Jam event is depending on the facilitation. Service Innovation and Design students in Laurea had a chance to facilitate in Circular Economy Jam 2019. The Jam was a two-day event and the purpose of the Jam was to discover new possibilities, share insights, and develop new circular economy solutions around university operations and campus life in Laurea.

How well the facilitation of the Jam went depended a lot how well the facilitators were prepared. I couldn´t participate to the Jam as a facilitator but I was preparing and helping my facilitation partner for the Jam. This blog post is about how to prepare for the Jam and that way facilitate a successful Jam event.

Introduction to the topic

The Circular Economy Jam was divided in seven different topics around circular economy challenges. Each challenge got two facilitators. My facilitation partner and I chose the challenge: “How to improve the efficient use of products or resources through Collaborative Consumption and Sharing Platforms?

Firstly we had to get to know the topic better. We started gathering information and reading several articles regarding collaborative consumption and sharing platforms. We learned especially millennials no longer want to own stuff and value experiences over owning things. In sharing economy and collaborative consumption individuals or organizations share resources like products, services, time or skill via a digital platform. In addition to digital platform sharing economy requires the culture of trust.

Part of the information search we started thinking about the research questions that are related to the topic: What can be shared? How to motivate owners and seekers? How to gain the trust among the users? What are the risks and how to minimize threats? These questions and articles we read helped us to understand the topic better.

Time-keeping is the challenge

When we were familiar with the topic we started planning the Jam structure. At first we realized the biggest challenge will be the time-keeping. From the experience we knew it can be difficult to stop the team during an activity when they feel they are not ready yet.

If one team is delayed, it may cause timing problems for all the other teams too. That´s why the most important task of the facilitator is to ensure that the team will achieve the goals of tasks in time. Facilitator should improvise during the Jam and friendly guide the team to the next step and also communicate that things don’t have to be perfectly complete.

Designing the Jam structure

When we were familiar with the topic and aware of the challenges with the timing we started planning the Jam based on the Design Thinking structure. We planned what tools and methods the team would use and how much time each phase and step would take.

The base for the successful Jam is that the facilitators and participants get to know each other. When everyone know and trust each other it is easier to create honest and safe environment to be creative and fail.

The plan for the first day:

  • #1 Framing insights phase was planned to consist of creating research questions around the problem, doing a short field research, gathering the findings into key insights and creating a customer journey map and personas. In our opinion it is easier to search for pain points and opportunities from the customer journey map and then translate the pains into ‘How might we…?’ questions.
  • #2 Ideation & concepting phase was planned to start with the `Three Brain Warm-Up` exercise. We thought it could be hard to be creative without an exercise, so the idea of the warm-up activity is to help the team get into creative mode. Next we planned to run a Crazy 8 exercise for quick divergent thinking as part of the ideation. Crazy Eight works great in the early stages of the ideation process to come up with a lot of different ideas very quickly. At the end of the day the team votes for the best idea.

The plan for the second day:

  • #3 Prototyping phase was planned to start with the discussion around the best idea and the team selects one concept to be prototyped. Next they create a scope of the prototype and a success criterium for testing. Eventually the team build, test and improve the prototype.
  • #4 Test & Feedback phase was planned to be the last part of the Jam and the team prepare a final concrete concept based on the prototype. Finally all the teams present the concepts for everyone.

 

design thinking
The Circular Economy Jam structure based on Design Thinking.

Trusting the plan leads to a success

Since I couldn´t participate to the Jam I don’t have own experiences how well our plan  worked for the Jam. According to my facilitation partner the Jam day was busy and all the things didn´t go as planned. This didn´t matter – the Jam was successful since we had a solid and adjustable plan on which she trusted and she let herself and the team have fun, be creative and open-minded!

Written by: Marianne Kuokkanen

Should design thinking really be human-centred?

While reading Tim Brown’s “Change by Design”, I was touched by the story of the ORAL B toothbrush found among the rubbish deposited on the beach. Through this story Tim Brown asked himself and us about the responsibility of designers and design thinkers when designing. That resonates with me. We’re responsible for creating sustainable, eco-friendly change in the world either as creators or facilitators. But how to remember this and most importantly how to implement it? Does education, existing methods and tools give us any hints here? It seems that they concentrate mostly on human needs.

 

 

In early design thinking literature such as “Change by Design” or Tim’s article in the Harvard Business Review ”Design Thinking”, the subject of ecological responsibility wasn’t elaborated and included in the design thinking process. Although Roger Martin (in “The design of business”) listed social responsibility as part of Design Thinking, what about ecological responsibility? We missed placing it explicitly within existing DT models such as the IDEO one: Inspiration-Ideation-Implementation or Jeane Liedtke’s and Tim Ogilvie’s Designing for Growth approach or Katja Tschimmel’s Evolution 6² model. I browsed a few books collecting design thinking tools and couldn’t find any tools including ecological responsibility.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_bf5.jpg

Tim Brown seemed to answer this need in 2017, a year when IDEO in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation created “The circular design guide”. Check this website https://www.circulardesignguide.com . You will find ready-to-use tools: workshops scripts, modified templates to use in the process of designing for the sake of the circular economy.

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