How to take circular economy from strategy to action?

There is a lot of talk around circular economy, but how to actually move from the top level discussions to concrete actions? In the Spring of 2020 LOOP hosted a webinar series to share learnings from brave Nordic organisations who have actually made the change towards circular economy. We gathered 3 key learnings for you to get you going with circular economy.


1. Eat the elephant one bite at the time

Circular economy is a massive topic and it can feel challenging to get started. One great example of how to get going bit by bit is Fiskars, who has explored the circular opportunities by identifying more than a hundred circular ideas and choosing a dozen of them to prioritise on and explore them further. Eventually Fiskars chose 4 of the circular opportunities to pilot based on customer feedback and business viability. With this agile customer-focused approach they were able to get a clear plan to move forward with and their Vintage model and Rental service were out in the market rapidly.

Another example comes from the construction industry, where achieving circularity is also a huge challenge, but can be solved one solution at a time. One case example of this is Looping, a Norwegian startup developing sustainable and durable transport packaging for the construction industry. Piloting together with larger construction companies, Looping develops reuse as-a-service solutions to gather data and learn about optimal ways of reducing plastics in the construction industry. Their solution will not tackle all the industry’s problems but is a concrete action towards reducing and recycling plastics in a sector that accounts for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Collaborate with new types of partners

As circular challenges are often systemic, circular economy can’t be built alone. Therefore, new types of collaborations are needed. This can be scary as the partners are usually not from your traditional value chain, the one you have been collaborating with for decades. Rather, the circular partners can be start-ups developing circular solutions or also larger companies from another industry, tackling the same challenges you are also trying to solve.

The Collection of tomorrow, done in partnership between Bergans of Norway, the company who invented the backpack as we know it today, and Spinnova, the Finnish start-up developing the most sustainable fibre in the world, is a great example of new types of collaboration that circularity requires.

New types of collaboration models were also needed when covid-19 changed the market for restaurants overnight. Stockholm-based restaurant The Restaurant Lab and food service wholesaler Martin & Servera applied circular design methods to utilise the food that would have been otherwise wasted, to prepare meals for hospital workers and school children.

In both of these cases the key factor for achieving successful and agile collaboration between small and a big established player, were clear common goals, understanding of each other’s roles and business models and open communication.

3. Test the model in real life as early as possible

As circular solutions are very often new to the market and represent a novel way of working for your organisation, it is important to get feedback from the potential customers as early as possible. This way you start learning immediately. Instead of long internal planning processes, aim to get out in the market as soon as possible to validate both the technical and customer feasibility.

Very often, this means high uncertainty and getting out in the market with a solution that is not yet 100% ready. Spinnova and Bergans showed the way here by launching a concept made out of Spinnova material that is not in commercial stage yet. By getting the product out to customers for real-life usage, they will gather crucial feedback of the product and engage with early adopter customers. Instead of waiting for everything to be perfect and polished, they have an open dialogue with their customers that is hugely valuable for their future success.

The same approach applies also on the big scale in the manufacturing industry. Volvo has set the target to have 25 % of all plastics in their new cars made out of recycled materials by 2025. It is an ambitious target for a premium car manufacturer. Volvo took an agile approach to this big challenge and decided to get going by building a demo car. In the process they learnt a lot about the topic, reached out to old and new suppliers, identified barriers and opportunities and understood how to build the roadmap forward to reach their target.

Did you miss the previous webinars? No worries, you can view the recordings on our digital ecosystem, free for everyone! Join us to get inspired by case studies and growth companies, take part of the latest circular launches and most importantly – connect with other Nordic circular enthusiasts. Sign up!

Moona Pohjola
CEO at Verona Growth
+358 40 869 6074,
Join our webinar: Circular Startups to Watch at Oslo Innovation Week

Building a circular future requires a system where ideas and visions turn into reality. Circular economy is not only about recycling. It opens up five interesting business models. These business opportunities are exploited by impressive startups in the Nordics.

In our webinar on 21st September at 10 am (EEST) we showcase 5 Nordic startups to be aware of. These startups represent different circular business models, to show you how circular business can be done in practice.

Read other case stories