Adopting a circular economic system will require a fundamental rethink of what we mean by ‘value’ and ‘ownership’. Perhaps instead of selling products, businesses such as Philips should retain ownership and sell their use as a service, allowing us to optimize the use of resources. By selling the benefits of the products rather than the products themselves, we begin to design for longevity, multiple re-use and eventual recycling.
At Philips, we understand that innovation will be crucial in achieving this. A new generation of materials will be required, along with radical production processes. We will need to be just as innovative in defining new business models. And we will need fearless leadership that embraces and rewards the circular economy, a leadership that encourages not only consumers to alter their consumption from owning to using, but also stakeholders to co-design, co-create and co-own. Finally, rather than focus on lowest cost when tendering projects, governments should instead consider the highest value in terms of the health of people and the planet.
It makes for not just a strong moral argument but an economic one, too. The Ellen MacArthur foundation estimates that moving to a circular economy will bring with it more than a trillion USD in business opportunities – new jobs, increased productivity, material savings, new geographic areas of growth and even new product categories.
It is not easy to stand apart and use leadership to inspire others in such a way but it is ingrained in the Philips philosophy. Rather than fear the consequences of such change, we must embrace its extraordinary potential.
Perhaps in 500 years our descendants will look back on today and recognise how the Circular Economy Revolution ushered in a new era of wisdom and prosperity.