We are seven ‘circularists’ that embarked upon a Circular Economy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship MBA at the University of Bradford between 2014 and 2020, each hoping to be a catalyst for something greater than ourselves in the environment. At the time, the climate change momentum had not gathered steam and the circular economy was not on most organisations’ or governments’ radar. However, separately, as business professionals, we all felt there would be a future trend pivoting away from the extreme resource waste experienced around us. Fortunately, our awareness was echoed by the UoB’s initiative and foresight to work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to create the world’s first Circular Economy MBA. The journey has not been easy for either the CE to take hold, nor for graduates to find suitable positions in organisations. These obstacles lead us to the formation of CE360-Alliance.com. A little background might be useful to understand how we have arrived here and the current state as we interpret it.
After many fits and starts over the years, in 2019 it has been gratifying to note that the circular economy has accelerated greatly to the extent that Gartner predicts it will be the ONLY economy by 2029, replacing wasteful linear economies. Additionally, already over 400 major corporations and organisations have committed to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (circular economy champion and evangelist) and the UN Environment Programme. This initiative brings together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. As these changes take hold within global value and supply chains, the need for true circular economy specialists to lead organisations to a real CE transformation can only increase. And we are seeing organisations all over the EU, UK and the USA talk about implementing circular economy initiatives, legislation and policy with far more frequency and urgency. Many new consultancies are forming to address what is likely to be one of the biggest whole systems disruptions in the next few years. In the circular economy, if a new product produces a waste by-product (even 50 years later) that has no useful afterlife, it is still operating in the linear economy of waste and pollution.
The circular economy is simultaneously a process, technology and design disruption to how products or services are designed, how they are consumed and then how they are re-consumed in a different context, over and over. Thus, once the tipping point occurs, because every part of a system is engaged, we feel the transition will be exponential and according to EMF and McKinsey, worth about 1.8trillion Euro in Europe alone. In the USA, the myth of recycling versus the actual non-recyclability of products is becoming a consumer awareness issue such as discussed in this video op-ed from the New York Times titled “The Great Recycling Con”. This type of backlash, along with ocean plastics and other environmental factors will require big brands and policy makers to transition to circular loops faster. The upside and benefit is increased brand equity and stocks/flows for a next generation of goods and services that are created by planning for a material lifecycle that loops and cascades indefinitely while being good for the planet and people.
In this blogpost, we share the exciting journey our CEIE MBA at Bradford has taken us on, along with a brilliant group of fellow MBA students and alumni that have become great friends and professional partners in an exciting new venture called CE360-Alliance.
The CE360 project is the result of over two years of brainstorming and iteration with fellow students on how to build a structure that allows us to put into practice the knowledge we have gained and implemented during the Circular Economy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship MBA.
During this intense shared experience, juggling between family, work and studies, we have gone through incredibly interesting materials, TED talks, books, articles and discussions with Prof. Peter Hopkinson and others from the academic team. This experience has changed us all with a common understanding of what a true CE should be, whilst applying the context of MBA related topics, theories and practice.
The triggering factor occurred in 2016 when about 30 of us met at the University of Bradford for 3 days at the invitation of Prof. Peter Hopkinson ahead of the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF), to meet and share experiences on this fast-evolving discipline that is CE. The three days were packed with activities; we all gathered at Elm Lane to share our hopes, future plans and to hear how the MBA was already impacting each other.
During the organised hike to the Yorkshire Dales, we had a chance to realize we share more than just common knowledge; it was something closer to what we could call a guiding philosophy of life that flows into our work.
Over a delicious meal of Bradford’s best curries we bonded over the challenge and difficulty of juggling family, work and the MBA workload, and during the DiF 2016 video sessions of “Voices from the MBA”, we formed an ongoing network and WhatsApp group that is constant and about 80-strong.
And ever since this weekend, just like a family gathering, we meet once a year (CPH, Milano and London in 2020) and have a very active community sharing news, job offers, articles, new research, or reports about CE.
From this wider group, some of us were already working in the field of sustainable business and some had enrolled to retrain and start a new profession. This mix of engineers, marketing professionals, consulting experts, executives and entrepreneurs has a strong motivation to have a positive impact.
However, when looking for job opportunities, consulting companies that shared the same vision of CE we had were few and far between. Therefore, we decided to use the strategies obtained in our MBA and diverse experiences to build a business of our own. A business that fits our values, our situations and brings about change.
Building on that shared vision and this global and multi-disciplinary network of wonderful people, we created an Alliance that is flexible, adaptive, decentralized and resilient. Everyone contributes how and when they can, in a transparent and trustworthy relationship, bearing in mind we all have other challenges to handle (some are still doing the MBA, some have small kids, other job responsibilities). This freedom is fulfilling and creates a sense of responsibility, we all work hard to make it work.
Our goal is to offer tailored and long-term collaborative consulting services that include assistance, match making with relevant partners, financial solutions so that projects are implemented to serve a client’s triple bottom line. Our approach is based on CE core principles, putting social and ecological aspects at the centre of our reflection, not as a collateral benefit and we believe companies considering (real) CE change will soon gain a competitive advantage.
Yes, an MBA is a fantastic qualification and will enable an individual to “walk the talk” with confidence and take the next step (whatever that might be) – but for it to be truly transformational then making the most of your network of peers, professors and the business leaders you meet is essential! It’s especially important for distance learners in a very new discipline like the circular economy. It takes a certain amount of courage to enrol for an MBA in a field that is not yet mature and often going it alone is the only way forward. With the climate emergency, there is no more time to assume “someone” else will take the reins. It is each of us.
Please take a look at our website www.CE360-Alliance.com – we hope to welcome many more graduating circular economy professional consultants in the coming months. In the meantime, we are working on obtaining our first engagements and also looking at funding, etc. Below is a small description/link to each consultant; you’ll find more details on each person’s website page.
Readers are welcome to contact any of us to discuss a project or thoughts on joining the circular economy as a student, a circular economy pioneer, or a business. Our WhatsApp group and events are open to all Bradford’s CE learners globally. The 2020 event (which generally includes speakers, presentations and a social aspect over 2-3 days) is in London. In 2021 tentative plans for New York City.
CE360 Founding Member responsible for alliance social engagement, networks and training.
Circular Economy Professional focussed on developing innovative education, training and broader outreach models. MBA (2020)
CE360 Founding Member responsible for alliance business development, networks and partnerships.
Circular Economy Professional focussed on developing innovative practical economic solutions. PGCert (2019)
CE360 Founding Member responsible for alliance partnerships, networks and business development.
Circular Economy Professional focussed on small medium enterprise (SME) value and supply chains. MBA (2020)
CE360 Founding Member & responsible for compliance, treasuring and membership.
Independent Sustainable Business and Circular Economy Professional. MBA (2019)
CE360 Founding Member responsible for alliance marketing, communications and business development.
Circular Economy Professional focussed on system interventions in the built environment (offsite/digital twins/modular), food and beverage, and industry 4.0. MBA (2020)
CE360 Founding Member and Alliance general manager.
Circular Economy professional focussed on travel and tourism Industry, hospitality and transportation. MBA (2019)
CE360 Founding Member responsible for alliance culture, ethics and training.
Circular Economy Professional focused on industrial symbiosis in the public sector and stakeholder engagement. MBA (2018)