Right now, our economy is linear. Resources - natural, human, and financial - are extracted and used to mass-produce disposable goods as efficiently as possible. Nearly everything that is not consumed as food or drink ultimately ends up in landfills or is burned, effectively ending its useful life. Negative impacts on employees, local communities, and the environment are viewed as necessary costs of doing business. A singular focus on profit and growth benefits the very few at the top. This "take-make-use-dispose" economy looks like this:
It doesn't have to be this way. There are brilliant, passionate people around the world who are working to change the way value is perceived, created, distributed, and retained. These innovators, entrepreneurs, academics, leaders, artists, investors and connectors have driven revolutionary technologies and ideas towards viability and mainstream adoption. Together, they have revealed the very real, imminently attainable possibility of a new economy - one that is circular and regenerative.
What does this mean?
It means there is a LOT of potential that is being left untapped in our current economic system. It means that we can design a better solution. And it means that the time to re-imagine and redesign our economy is now.
Circular Economy - an industrial model that is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimising negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
Industrial Symbiosis - an association between two or more industrial facilities or companies in which the wastes or byproducts of one become the raw materials for another.
Circular Business Ecosystem - our term for a symbiotic network of geographically proximate businesses that mimics a natural ecosystem. Ever-evolving, each connection and new addition helps to localize supply chains and hiring, convert waste into value, and/or contribute to the health and completeness of the local community and environment in which its members operate.
The concept of a circular business ecosystem is distinct from industrial symbiosis in that its focus extends beyond material byproducts and inputs to consider the impact of each connection and company on the "softer" context of its surroundings: the social and physical structures, the people and culture, the particular environmental opportunities and threats, and those of adjacent ecosystems. The transition to a circular economy will require the construction of many interconnected circular business ecosystems like the one ATP is building in New Haven.
And it will take all of us to get there.