Transcript: Circular Economy in a Time of COVID-19
SEE THE SHOW NOTES AND LISTEN AT: Circular Economy in a Time of COVID-19
[00:00:03] Hi, I'm Katie Whalen. And join me each week as I talk with experts around the globe about Circular economy. You'll find out what's being done to make it a reality and if it can really solve the problems it promises. It's time for Getting in the Loop.
[00:00:19] Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Getting in the Loop Podcast. And if you're new here, welcome. Wow. I love having this brief bit of your time every other week, but this week it feels extra special. And I want to give a great shout out to the new faces here from Green Biz, as I only recently realized that the Getting in the Loop Podcast was featured in their 2020 list of sustainability podcasts.
[00:00:47] What to say about today's episode? Well, I had planned for this episode to be a recap of my trip to the Circular economy symposium at Harvard, which took place earlier this month. And I know some of you tuned in virtually and there will still be an upcoming episode about that and my experience running In the Loop game there as part of it.
[00:01:10] But today, I wanted to address the topic that's everywhere right now. That's right. The European Commission's new circular economy action plan. Okay, no, I know that's not what you thought I was going to say. Right. And fair enough, it's release on March 9th, I believe has been overshadowed by the Covid pandemic. The long awaited plan aims to address recycling and reuse, and includes a special focus on resource intensive sectors where the potential for circularity is high auch as electronics, batteries and vehicles, packaging and building and construction. I have to be honest with you, I haven't yet had a chance to sit down and look at it in detail, but I plan to be doing that in the coming days. I've also linked to it in the show notes so you can take a look for yourself. Okay, now back to the elephant in the room, as we say, in English. While I don't want to feed into the ongoing overwhelm, I thought it would be remiss of me to not reflect on what's going on in the world right now. Getting in the Loop listeners are spread around the globe and how all of you are getting on has been on my mind as I hear that more and more countries are closing borders and imposing isolation. Today, I wanted to reflect broadly on the effect that the Covid19 pandemic could have on the Circular economy movement. I've selected three positive effects I hope it will have that I'm going to share. Obviously, this is a developing situation and I don't have all the answers, but it's something I have been thinking about over the past week or so. I also want to hear your thoughts and comments, since I know that is rather hard in podcast form. I've posted the transcript of this podcast on my LinkedIn as an article after you're done listening to this episode. You can head over there and join in on the conversation by posting a comment on the article. This way we can turn it into a discussion rather than a one way dialogue. If we aren't connected yet on LinkedIn, I'll link to it in my profile in the podcast show notes at GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com. Just say that you're a podcast listener and your connection request and I'll be sure to accept. Okay, so here are the three positive effects that I hope that Covid19 will have on the Circular economy discussion. The first is improved collaboration. We all know that to make a circular economy happen, we need people not from just different departments and companies to work together, but also people across various companies to work together. Now that people are choosing or in some situations being forced to work remotely, I am optimistic that this experience will improve how we collaborate with others in the future. Since many people are now being forced to rethink how they work with others and even use virtual collaboration tools for the first time. We even held a virtual coffee break with over 30 people from my institute at Lynn University last week. So while we may not be physically present with people right now, let's take this time to focus on new ways of working and reconnecting with those that we physically can't be with. The second takeaway is strong leadership and quick action is possible. Over the past two weeks, many governments have sprung into motion at exceedingly fast pace. For the first time ever, the United States now has paid sick leave. European countries like France, Denmark and Sweden have promised billions to support small businesses, and countries such as Japan have even launched entire marketing campaigns and catchy jingles and little mascots to inform the public about best health practices. What if we saw this type of action being applied to Circular economy? Many government officials have also shown great leadership initiative with quick and decisive action. For example, Mette Frederiksen, the prime minister of Denmark, introduced extreme measures throughout the country to flatten the curve before the country even had its first fatality. Of course, I feel like I should point out that the effectiveness of this move, especially its economic impact, likely can only be measured in the future. But nevertheless, I was really impressed with her quick and decisive action. Because of the work that I do with In the Loop, revolving around engaging people of all ages and circular economy, I was especially impressed with the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg, when she held a press conference for children to answer their questions. What a great way to include and educate your young citizens. We need to see more of this type of leadership for Circular economy. Okay, and finally, number three. What we've seen from this pandemic lends support to a distributed, rather centralized circular economy. If you've been a longtime Getting in the Loop listener, you might have heard me talk about two different types of circular economy distributed versus centralized circularity. I'll link to episode four in the show notes if you want to check it out, because there Ken Webster and I talk about this topic a little bit more. But in short, a centralized circular economy is characterized by material control and proprietary technology. In contrast, a distributed one is characterized by material ecosystems, open IP and collaboration. Over the past two months, the Coronavirus has pulled the interconnectedness of our global supply chains into focus and illustrates the potential weaknesses of centralized circularity. Although it seems a bit trivial now as production has ceased in many countries around the world. Back in January, companies worried about the effects that reduced capacity from China would have on their production since they were reliant on components from China. The Harvard Business Review, for example, warn companies to brace themselves for shortages in the coming weeks. Mentioning car parts, wedding dresses and more. Going for a more distributed approach is also one of the takeaways from the In the Loop game as well. I keep saying that this pandemic is an In the Loop game event card come to life as in the game. There are expert disruptions which hinder your ability to access materials from different countries. And the only way around these supply chain disruptions are smart, forward thinking strategies. So those were my three reflections from recent days. Increased collaboration and new ways of working virtually. Strong leadership and decisive actions are possible from governments. And the driver for a distributed rather than centralized circular economy. I've mentioned a couple of articles and resources throughout. And I'll be sure to link those in the show notes at GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com. So you can check them out if you're interested. So in this short, but I hope inspiring podcast for today, I've tried to address what the Covid19 pandemic could mean for Circular economy. Do you agree with my reflections? What else do you think we can learn from this? Log onto LinkedIn and tell me what you think in the LinkedIn, an article associated with this podcast episode. That's all for today, folks. Thanks for listening. And stay safe.
[00:08:43] Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. For show notes and links, go to our website at GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com, and while you're there, subscribe to our mailing list to have new episodes delivered to your inbox every Monday. See you next week.
About the Show
Getting In the Loop is a weekly podcast dedicated to exploring how to transform to a more circular society. Join host Katie Whalen as she examines the challenges facing our current resource use and discovers alternatives to the ‘take, make, dispose’ way of doing things. Each week she interviews circular economy experts about what they’re doing and learning. Together we'll uncover what circular economy means in practice and find out what's being done to keep our resources in a loop rather than sent to waste.