We are well on the way to consuming all of the world’s resources. In Sweden, we live as if we had four planets at our disposal. A circular economy in which our devices have a longer working life and are better utilised is part of the solution. RISE has the ability to measure circularity and value, helping companies to make the necessary transition to a circular economy.
If everyone on the planet lived as we Swedes did during 2016, we would require natural resources equivalent to 4.2 Earths in order to cope with the demand for manufacture and consumption. Meanwhile, prognoses show that by 2030, a further 3 billion people will have reached the level of welfare we enjoy here in Sweden.
“One of our driving forces is that we only have one planet. We must be five times as resource-efficient than we are today to meet this increased level of welfare. This precludes simply digging up resources from the Earth to manufacture something that is used for a brief period before being discarded. Neither will it be enough to simply recycle what we throw away,” says Josefina Sallén, focus area manager for circular transition at RISE.
One important element of this transition is that products must retain their value for longer. One example is mobile telephones, which through the enormous functionality provided by processing, technology, design and software are worth more than the materials from which they are manufactured.
"We should be able to use these telephones for much longer; however, this naturally requires greater durability, upgradability and a design that meets the requirements of the time,” says Josefina Sallén.
RISE has been researching circular business models for almost 10 years and certain areas of the field for much longer. Food waste, materials traceability, systems analysis. logistics and design are a few examples where RISE has a wealth of expertise.
"We have built-up a unique range of expertise and we can help businesses in all areas of their circular transition. This deals with everything form creating a new business model to product design, choice of materials, organisation and, not least, identifying new business clusters and constellations for collaboration,” explains Josefina Sallén.
She mentions Houdini, Ikea, Electrolux, Kinnarps, H & M and Modexa as examples of companies that have taken circular thinking on board.
"Many companies still have a long way to go, while the point is entirely lost on others. That said, I believe that we will soon see a ketchup effect – we are in the midst of a paradigm shift that can’t be ignored if you want to continue to run a profitable business,” says Josefina Sallén.
Many of the companies that refuse to jump aboard this train voluntarily will be forced to do so by their customers.
“Yes, consumer behaviour is changing. It has become cooler to conserve and take care of objects, rather than constantly buy new ones, and this is a global pattern," says Josefina Sallén.
Tools to facilitate transition
RISE has developed a number of tools to facilitate this transition, including a metric for circularity developed in collaboration with over 30 companies across a wide range of industries. This metric measures the percentage of a product’s economic value that is recirculated.
“This provides a situational image showing which areas for improvement a company can attack; where the potential exists," says Josefina Sallén.
To further this work, there are also tools that focus on the transition itself from linearity to circularity; tools that identify driving forces and obstacles for stakeholders in the value circle.
"Although many companies maintain large R&D departments for products, they may not be organised to develop new business models. This is where we can help,” explains Josefina Sallén.
That products have a longer working life need not necessarily mean that the company will make less money.
"Indeed not, they can sell services instead. Those who offer customers the chance to upgrade, who provide desirable services and repair faulty devices, will be able to develop their offer more rapidly than those looking to constantly sell new models,” says Josefina Sallén.
This insight is integral to the circular economy.