This month, representatives from The Natural Step’s teams around the world were at the World Circular Economy Forum #WCEF2019, which took place in Helsinki, Finland on 3-5 June. The event brought together over 2200 of the world’s top business leaders, policymakers, researchers and innovators working to implement the circular economy globally. Topics ranged from plastics, construction, and textiles, to promising circular product-service concepts to policy frameworks and how to measure circularity. (Tip: Sitra has made available several resources and recordings, accessible here).

We were pleased to note the calls to urgently “bend the trend” and take radical action in light of recent reports about climate change, species extinction, and interconnected global risks. Another theme was increasing recognition that we must address the systems driving fundamentally unsustainable production and consumption patterns. To do this requires a breakthrough mindset and effective ways of working together around common goals. 

The good news is that solutions and methods to do this already exist. One of them is called backcasting, an approach advocated by The Natural Step. To share our experiences in applying backcasting from sustainability principles, The Natural Step International hosted a dedicated side event to the Forum on the topic: “Circular and Sustainable”.

The event, arranged in collaboration with NELIS, Next Leaders Initiative for Sustainability, explored the questions “does circular = sustainable?” and “what type of leadership is needed to ensure we aim for truly circular and sustainable business within a safe operating space for humanity?” A number of cases from The Natural Step’s global network were presented to demonstrate how the backcasting process is helping our clients connect the dots between circular economy and sustainability:   

  • Richard Blume shared insights on how a common roadmap is helping the European PVC industry secure its place in the circular economy and overcome key sustainability challenges (more about the case here). 
  • Lin Zhang shared lessons on challenges to improving circularity in the textile industry in China.
  • Outi Ugas explored the topic of data management in the transition from linear to circular and showcased how circular economy content is now available in a new digital platform for companies, SustainOnline.  
  • Antonio Vasconcelos, Executive Director for TNS Portugal went to ground with the biological cycle with the inspiring case of Esporão organic wines and olive oil in Portugal (more about this company here).
  • Patrik Sandin, Chair of The Natural Step International presented The Natural Step’s Sustainability Transition Lab approach to fostering collaboration around systems change with examples from Israel, Netherlands, China and in particular, Canada.
  • Jovin Hurry from NELIS prompted participants to reflect on their own leadership skills to contribute to systems change through personal relationships. 

Scaling up the transition through collaboration was another theme addressed at the Forum, including during a parallel side event with the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition. CELC is a national initiative spearheaded by The Natural Step Canada in collaboration with a strong consortium of partners. A number of high-level delegates from Canada were present during the WCEF Forum where it was announced that next year’s Circular Economy Forum #WCEF2020 will be hosted.

On behalf of The Natural Step teams around the world, we want to thank all those working to make a sustainable circular economy a reality. Contact us today if you’ve like to learn more about our work and see you in Canada next year!