Entering your brand into the circular economy is easier than you may think. Start here.
September 25, 2023
Sustainable products and services are becoming increasingly more important for consumers and the environment. From circular clothing brands to tech brand designers creating phones that never have to be fully replaced, companies are working to create a circular economy and eliminate global waste to preserve the planet.
Research has projected that global warming will reach dangerous levels in the coming years — at least by 2042, but possibly as soon as 2027.
As the importance of taking care of the planet grows more each day to prevent irreversible damage, products with a circular design become more and more prevalent.
Although it may seem complex, if you’re looking to evolve into — or launch — a circular brand, knowing the basics of circular design and how it plays out in a circular economy will set up your company for success.
Rather than a standard design, a circular design is one that does not contribute to global waste and keeps products and services in a continuous cycle of recycling, repurposing and use.
Standard design means:
Products and services that contribute to this cycle add global waste to the environment and exhaust resources that can’t be replaced at the rate at which they are used.
With a circular design:
This design does not contribute to pollution or leave a carbon footprint. Products are meant to be constantly updated, reused and put through the cycle again.
A circular brand that creates products with a circular design is not just better for the environment. When your brand has products or services with an environmentally-friendly driven design, it sets the opportunity to engage with customers who are committed to shopping sustainably and to create partnerships with other businesses.
In a circular economy — where companies all make products and services with a circular design and products are going through continuous cycles — it’s estimated by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation that brands in the European Union could save $630 billion per year. Fast-moving consumer goods, meanwhile, could save around $700 billion each year.
Additionally, a report from IBM found:
The environmental benefits, cost savings, and appeal to consumers who care about supporting brands focused on bettering the planet all make a convincing case for companies to have a circular design model for their products and services.
Creating a circular brand begins with ideas.
Brainstorm. What products or services are you creating that satisfy a consumer’s need? How can you create these products or services in a way that serves the planet at the same time, and don’t contribute to global waste or pollution?
When creating a circular brand, you should be mindful of the steps of the circular design process.
The cycle continues in a loop, with materials being continuously re-used, recycled, repurposed, and returned to the Earth.
As you implement these steps in your circular brand, be mindful of the principles of the circular design process:
By knowing the key steps and principles in the circular design process, you’re ready to begin your journey as a circular brand.
Once you’ve created ideas for products and services and laid plans for your circular brand, it’s time to launch it into action.
As you gather materials, look for other brands or manufacturers to partner with who are committed to a circular economy.
For example, if you’re launching a circular fashion brand, search for farms and manufacturers that are fully transparent and track all steps of the design process — from sourcing organic cotton, to minimizing water use, to ensuring no harmful chemicals are released into the earth’s natural systems.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to global waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates:
The United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion estimates:
As you source cotton or other plant-based materials for your circular fashion brand, ensure you’re replacing the earth’s natural systems and not exhausting resources. Leave the earth better than you found it.
When you manufacture and release your products, make sure you’re connecting with your consumers and building a relationship. What sets you apart from other brands? Why should they care about your product or service?
Consider how long your customers are going to be using their products, and design them so they can be fully repurposed, reused, or return to the earth.
Staying with the example of a circular fashion brand: don’t contribute to the fast fashion cycle. Design clothes and other products that are meant to last a lifetime — and even far beyond that.
If clothing items wear down over time, what will happen to them? Ensure you have a way cotton shirts can be recycled by the consumer and the material can be fully reused and/or remade into other products.
There are several circular fashion brands that are already working to create sustainable clothing that doesn’t contribute to global waste.
Some circular economy fashion brands include:
When circular fashion brands work with other companies to create partnerships, it helps a circular economy flourish.
As your product and/or service continues through its life cycle, you should be constantly updating, innovating, and re-designing them.
Because the life cycle is continuous, your design process should be too. Find ways to update your products and services, and make them even more environmentally friendly.
Some questions to ask yourself include:
By continuously innovating and updating the design of your products and services, you’ll ensure you’re keeping customers satisfied and being as environmentally forward as possible.