Opportunities co-exist with the challenges of transformation.

Transformation to circular operations must undo decades, even centuries of unintended consequences. Original business models assumed an “anything goes” as far as design, resources and operations, as long as profitability goals were met. Moving from old business practice is challenging especially as areas like design, resource (supply chain) and operations proceeded in coordinated but separate ways. Transition from linear [take – make – waste] to circular [take – make – remake] models require fundamental shifts starting with challenges to fundamental business assumptions like product versus service.

Designing for remaking is fundamentally opposite to designing waste into the process. As H&M and IKEA have discovered, the intention to go to circular operations is no small feat. Recycled cloth, a basic resource common to both companies, represents the complexity of the problem. Unknown and potentially toxic substances are often present, forcing the companies to run literally thousands of tests on recycled materials. Every batch of recycled materials contains a new potentially toxic mixture.

For the volumes needed for new products, this scenario actually represents business opportunities. Imagine, for example, if total material and chemical composition data is embedded in textiles designed for reuse. An entirely new supply chain devoted to a circular textile economy could arise.

We’re journey partners for companies looking to transform to sustainable and circular business models. Want to learn more? We have a long history of work in the oil and gas who have begun the slow journey of understanding how to undo linear concepts while moving to systems or circular models. Our presentation to a sustainability conference of professional engineering associations may be of interest.

Read more detail on what IKEA & H&M are doing.