Circular Economy - A Strategic Values Map
Circular Economy – Codes and Examples
High quality, premium, long-lasting products. These are brands that often have 100s of years of manufacturing tradition behind them, and are made from stable, strong materials with functional designs. Their contribution to the circular economy is that they are designed to last a long time, placing value on being one-of-a-kind editions, and often offering repair services. Products can be passed on to new generations, and their value increases with age.
Codes: Brands are not shy to tell their story and communicate their heritage, often using iconic, timeless or classic design styles, made to feel relevant to any age.
Signs of age, worn, torn, faded or battered objects, can also be symbols of endurance, testimony of an ability to withstand time.
Rimowa – designed to be the “perfect suitcase” and to accompany its users for a lifetime. It offers repair services globally integrated with hotels and other partners.
Angle Razor – an aluminum, minimalistic and smart-designed Razor, made to fit all standard blades, so users can easily access re-fills. For a mindful shaving experience.
A spiritual concept of circularity, or holism, where products and services enable people to feel more connected to the bigger ecosystems around them. Ascetic lifestyles and a sense of connection with nature act as counterpoint to stressed, urban lives, evident in social media phenomena like Tree Hugging and Earthing. The circular principles here lie in using products that are recycled and made with very high quality and simple materials, designed to last a long time.
Codes: The aesthetic and sensory features of products express a desire to slow down, for softness, warmth, peace and rejuvenation of the soul. Muted, natural colours, gentle materials. Re-using and re-filling are also important activities here.
Organic Basics – a Danish fair fashion label that works with pure organic materials and tests each product for its eco footprint. Also with strong social principles, representing women of diverse body sizes.
Craftsmanship and skills
Repairing as a valuable craft, an activity that prolongs value, brings people together and promotes the development of skills. Evident in services like i-Restore, DIY-mending sets, sewing studios, tutorials and repair cafes, where it’s not just materials but also knowledge that’s being shared and re-used.
Codes: Patchwork and DIY aesthetic, celebrating the imperfect. Combining plastic baskets with natural materials like straw, dilapidated wooden chairs spruced up with artificial materials or 3-d printing. Patchwork products upcycled, and with new aesthetic appeal.
Fablab – this Zurich-based repair café provides a workshop for experts to help people with fixing anything, from toasters to zippers. But it’s not just about fixing things, the space also functions as a place where people can connect and get to know each other over a shared activity.
Supporting conscious consumption, fair production and sustainable materials, and using certified raw resources that have been recycled, are composable or fairly produced. Here production systems, the origins of raw materials and workers’ labour conditions are important. Brands that elevate traditional handcrafts, work with upcycling projects and measure their CO2 footprint feature heavily.
Codes: Meticulously showing the whole journey from sourcing to production to consumption. Using raw materials, natural colours and product designs that work with the inherent features of the natural product.
Freitag – well-known for their Messenger bags made from lorry tarpaulin, the brand now also has a clothing line, using 100% biodegradable materials.
Wikkelhouse – a modular home-living concept made out of 100% recyclable, natural materials like wood and card.
The common good, local community
Building on sharing economy principles and using this to build social communities, with a focus on the wellbeing and engagement of everyone involved. Community initiatives around gardening, ceramics, DIY and green-living projects, including new types of housing, such as co-living. This means participative activities, where people feel they can create their own goods and tools for living, in a way that is locally-focused and sustainably minded.
Codes: Swapping as an economic as well as a social resource: showing people building closer relationships, and living in communities including childcare, or organizing swap parties. Muted tones and colours, no photoshopping, hand-pressed or hand-made techniques to communicate diversity and communal effort.
Etepetete – fruit and vegetables frequently get stuck in the supply chain because they are not deemed attractive enough for the supermarket. To stop this wastage, in 2014 Munich start up Etepete launched their own veggie-box featuring bent and crooked vegetables. To date they’ve rescued over 2,7 million Kg of fruit and veg.
Leihlager – this library of things was founded in Basel as a non-profit organization in order to promote community ties and save resources. Any kind of non-everyday object (from tents to hammers and tattoo machines) can be borrowed here.
A socio-ecological movement, where products and services in use become symbols of protest and identity. Sustainability and climate activism are understood as a calling, a duty and a mission. Calling for greater accountability from corporates, seeking to expose wrongdoing and convert the mainstream to the circular economy philosophy.
Codes: Protest-aesthetic and strong contrasts. Loud, confrontational language, block capitals and bright colours.
Lush – this British brand is a long-standing advocate for natural cosmetics, no animal testing and reducing packaging. In 2019 the opening of the first, packaging-free "Lush Naked” store in London, complete with naked employees, received much attention, and is just one example of their many activist initiatives.
Digital applications that enable a sharing economy, where knowledge, products and materials can be widely circulated. Giving life to products, tools and materials that have been laying about unused. Reducing ownership and exploiting the results of over-production.
Codes: Dominated by sleek tech brands, with community-building as more of a means to an end, emphasizing seamlessness and ease. However some new brands are beginning to spring up and offer more socially-minded initiatives as counterpoint to these.
Fairbnb – a not-for-profit alternative to existing holiday-home applications. Designed to support sustainable tourism by collaborating with local city regulations and combating gentrification.
Leveraging the most advanced scientific technologies to create solutions that help us be more environmentally sustainable, or to enhance natural beings and processes. Re-making resources through technology is a way to get materials that would otherwise have gone to waste back into circulation. Backed by blockchain technologies, smart energy systems, and supply chain control mechanisms, giving access to more data on resource usage, for example for water.
Codes: Maker Culture, clean, white laboratory aesthetic, technological machinery combined with fresh green colours, plants, light, nature boosted by science.
Solar Foods – a Finnish food-tech start-up using Biotech solutions to produce protein from CO2 – making food from air. A sustainable alternative to animal or plant-based protein.