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Digitalisation is the path to circular business

Sustainability and the transition to a circular economy are among society's biggest driving forces. For companies that have succeeded with their digitalisation, the step there does not have to be all that long. “Digitalisation both enables and drives the circular business models,” says Susanna Winzenburg, project manager at RISE.

All companies will have to adapt to sustainability and the circular economy – whether they like it or not. There is otherwise a high risk that in the long run, the companies that fail to adapt will no longer be relevant for either customers or prospective employees.  

  “You'll go the way of the dinosaurs if you don't think about sustainability. I don't think you’ll survive,” says Susanna Winzenburg, project manager and responsible for the focus area sustainable societal transition at RISE.

The requirements for environmentally responsible companies will come not only from the authorities, but also from customers and potential partners to the extent that they do not already exist.  

“All the companies we interviewed for the report emphasise that the climate issue is business critical. “It is not an option, but rather affects everything from recruitment to the fact that it will be impossible to sell to customers in the future if you are not sustainable,” she adds.  

Digitalisation the key – if done correctly 

But what is the best way to succeed with the transition to circular business models? Well, it turned out that companies that have gone digital have more tools to discover and analyse new business models as well as better conditions for implementing them. Sustainability and a circular economy will be a consequence of digitalisation if properly utilised.  

“When companies work with digitalisation, they can collect information in new ways; different sources can be linked together and storage and processing of data creates opportunities that previously did not exist,” says Susanna Winzenburg.  

Precisely the foundation necessary to discover circular business models that can replace the linear.  

“It creates the conditions for selling a function of a product rather than the product itself. When companies retain proprietorship of the product, the incentive for efficiency is shifted from the customer to the producer,” says Susanna Winzenburg.  

Is digitalisation a must for a circular business model? 

“No, I probably wouldn’t say it’s a must, but it creates the conditions for selling products in other ways and it also creates the conditions for efficient production and recycling. You can come far, but it is different for different industries and at different companies,” says Susanna Winzenburg.  

You'll go the way of the dinosaurs if you don't think about sustainability

Digital is not automatically circular

“But just because a company has gone digital doesn't mean it can also automatically become circular. The company still has to do the heavy lifting and identify business opportunities to and customer segments.

"One of the major challenges when moving to the circular economy is finding the customers and how the customers will buy your service,” says Susanna Winzenburg.

At the same time, society's gradual transition towards sustainability and circularity in recent years has meant that the step no longer has be all that long.  

“When working with business development, it is important to point to the business potential of the circular economy. In the past, it’s been more difficult to find that potential, but as we approach the circular economy, and it becomes easier and easier, it is important to get your customers with you,” says Susanna Winzenburg.

Help with the transition from RISE 

Companies of all different sizes can get help from RISE in their work with the transition – both digitally and circularly. RISE's unit Sustainable Business can also help find circular business opportunities and calculate their potential compared to the traditional linear.

“You can then see the possibilities of the circular economy and that you can reach new customer segments. In the end, it might well be that the company extracts higher value out of a product than if it were just to be sold. You can find completely new ways to make money and at the same time contribute to green positive development,” concludes Susanna Winzenburg.

Susanna Winzenburg

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Susanna Winzenburg


+46 10 228 42 33

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