Circular Economy

Estimates suggest that the global population will reach 9 billion by 2030 – including 3 billion new middle-class consumers. This places unprecedented pressure on natural resources to meet future consumer demand. The circular economy is a redesign of this future, where industrial systems are restorative and regenerative by intention and design. At the same time, its potential for innovation, job creation and economic development is huge: estimates indicate a trillion-dollar opportunity. 
Achieving scale and unlocking the full global potential of the circular economy requires concerted effort at two levels, which will be the focus of the Forum’s Circular Economy project:

  • At the macro level – Within key growth geographies: Designing policies, systems and enterprises that enable a circular economy transition in global growth regions presents an enormous opportunity – not only to drive “green” economic development, but also to unlock a higher level of value and service from materials cycling through these economies. Yet, the circular economy narrative has been so far centred on Western Europe, with little exploration of what a circular economy will mean in important growth regions. 
  • At the micro level – Within corporate systems: At a practical level, important work remains to assess and understand the global systems necessary to scale circular economy practices throughout companies. This is critical to businesses that are ready to adopt circular models. This work has two components:  
    • Intelligent Assets: Business opportunities in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) can be created by deploying circular economy thinking. Tracking assets, building asset databases to integrate with enterprise data, gauging remaining useful life, and recovering residual value are all important examples of potential opportunities. This potential still needs to be unpacked. 
    • Financing models: Currently finance models focus on the “take-make- dispose” business model. Financing models will need to be fundamentally restructured to account for long-term residual materials values and support circular activities at scale.



Key Organizations

  • averda
  • BT
  • Desso Holding
  • Ecolab
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • Indorama Ventures
  • McKinsey & Company
  • Royal DSM
  • Royal Philips
  • Suez Environnement
  • Veolia

Project Management

Nathalie Chalmers, Project Lead, Circular Economy Initiative, Global Leadership Fellow
Tel: +41228691491