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Summer is often a time of reflection at Circle Economy– with warmer temperatures and out of office responders on, it feels like the world is taking a much-needed, collective break. 

What better time to look back on what we’ve achieved over the past few years? 

Our latest impact report will guide you through exactly this, but I also wanted to reflect on what we’ve learned along the way, and share with you some of the lessons my time at Circle Economy has taught me:

Lesson 1: You can’t get where you want to be, if you don’t know where you are

The circular economy is a quickly emerging field: We’re still working out what is circular from what isn’t, what barriers to implementation exist, and what responses we can design to address them. All important concerns– but without an initial assessment of the status quo, how can we tell if we’re moving in the right direction or if we’re severely off track? 

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With the Circularity Gap Report, we established a first benchmark for the world to understand where we’re starting from and to raise awareness of how much work there is left to do. 

It’s not a perfect metric by any means, and we welcome your critical eye, but it’s the start we needed to take stock of our progress and elevate the conversation to a global level. It is encouraging to see that businesses and nation states are now picking up this approach – to get into action mode.

Lesson 2: Ride the (right) wave for the change you want to bring

Find where the intersection of emerging trends and the difference you want to make is, and use that to your advantage. Between climate action and the energy transition, for example– these trends bring with them political will, momentum, and funding opportunities.  

We get a lot of support for our work not only because our vision translates to outcomes that our supporters also want to see in the world– but because we are able to make that translation and to bridge the gap between the language we use and the language other people are more familiar with. 

Do be careful not to lose track of your own vision in the pursuit of financial support: this is an exercise in capitalising on existing movements, not in shape-shifting. 

Lesson 3: Just get started

It can be daunting to navigate the sea of (mis)information around climate change– what you should or should not be doing as an individual, an organisation, a city. Don’t let your climate anxiety hold you back, and don’t let signs of progress lull you into a false sense of security. In the words of colleague of purpose Kate Raworth: “be neither a pessimist nor an optimist, be an activist”.

Time is the least renewable of resources, and we’re running out of it. 

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If you are wondering where to get started, as often do the people we work with, our global knowledge hub will provide you with some of the strategies available to your business or city to do so, but you are also always welcome to reach out to us with your questions. 

Lesson 4: Dare to be vulnerable

Not all good ideas can land– nor should they have to: some projects we scoped but didn’t pursue; others we’ve put on the back burner; and others still evolved in ways we could not have anticipated– both for better and for worse.

By trying, failing, and embracing feedback and criticism along the way– with our supporters, our partners, and within our own team– we’ve tremendously grown and improved as an organisation. 

In the words of Brene Brown; “It takes courage to be vulnerable, and it takes vulnerability to be brave. Don’t avoid trying for fear of failing, but realise you will fail and learn along the way.”

Lesson 5: You can’t do it alone 

This is easy to forget when you have the determination, focus, and entrepreneurial mindset of a small and agile organisation, but important to remember– especially when you are in the business of overhauling complex systems that have remained unchecked since the industrial revolution.

Just recently, we mapped out opportunities for Circle Economy to get businesses and cities to transition in the next three years, as part of our long-term strategy. We clustered them in groups of opportunities we could pursue on our own (blue), those we can only realise with the help of partners (yellow), and those we should stay away from (red). The result was overwhelmingly and humblingly yellow. In short: Doing things together is the only way forward to really create impact!

For partnerships to work, you need trust, transparency, and a real financial and time investment from all parties involved– a balance not always easy to strike. But in today’s interconnected world, it’s foolish to think you can do anything on your own TK.


Moments of reflection like these are necessary, but now it’s time to get back to work. 

If you are interested in joining us in the transition, just get in touch.  

Leave a comment here, shoot us an email, tweet us– we’re here to help.

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