You may not have heard of the circular model economy but it has been described as a ‘trillion dollar opportunity’ as well as a way of making life more sustainable.

This video series presents perspectives from leaders across business, academia, policy and civil society as they explore the concept of the circular model and how growth can indeed be ‘green’. This is one of the key issues being explored in our Beyond GDP series, as we look at ways of moving away from a linear 'take-make-dispose' way of living.

The global population is set to reach close to 9 billion by 2030. This increase will place huge pressure on resources and mean a change in the way we consume is needed more than ever.

The circular economy means redesigning systems for a more sustainable future. Nothing that is made in a circular economy will become waste.

A change to the global economy brings potential for innovation, job creation and economic development.

The Circular Economy Imperative

Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, UK

Through her time as a solo off-shore sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur became aware of the importance of utilising resources, and the finite nature of the current, linear economy.

In this video she explains the idea of a circular economy, its benefits and why we must begin to transition towards it.

“The circular economy is a fundamentally different economic model, its taking the entire global economy, looking at it through a different lens and saying how can we valorise our economy to a higher level?”

Business Model Innovation

Frans van Houten, President and Chief Executive Officer, Royal Philips, Netherlands.

Frans van Houten believes the circular economy presents a significant opportunity for business model innovation.

He explains what this business model innovation would look like, and the economic potential it would bring.

“In circular economy business models I would like products to come back to me as the original designer and manufacturer.”

Design Innovation

William McDonough, Consulting Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, USA

William McDonough is an architect, designer and thought leader. In this video he discusses design innovation, a core aspect of a circular economy.

“The circular economy is an economic system that is an innovation engine that puts the re back into resources. It allows for continuous benefit to be provided to all generations by the reuse of things.”

Systems and Network Innovation

Patrick Wiedemann, Chief Executive Officer, Reverse Logistics Group, Germany

In this video Patrick Wiedemann discusses how the global economy can use the ‘reverse cycle’ to close material loops.

He shares his perspective on reverse logistics, and the need for supply chain innovation.

“Changing business models…will create a total new dynamic out in the market and create an enormous need for reverse processes.”


Arthur Huang, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Miniwiz, Chinese Taipei

Miniwiz, founded by Arthur Huang, is a closed-loop material innovation company. The business thrives on ‘upcycling’ – the reusing of products or materials to create a product of higher quality or value than the original – Huang explains more in this video.

Circular Economy and Policy

Janex Potocnik, Co-chair, UNEP International Resource Panel, France

Janez Potocnik has played a large role in policymaking on natural resources through his current role in the UNEP International Resource Panel, and in his prior role as the Commissioner for Environment for the European Commission.

In this video he discusses policy for a circular economy and the importance of addressing problems that are preventing the transition.

The Power of Consumers

Mike Barry, Director, Sustainable Business, Marks & Spencer, UK

The role of consumers will be vital in the transition to the circular economy. Mike Barry explains the power consumers have and how they will benefit from this new economic model.

“Ultimately the consumer is vital to the circular economy, they’re the ones driving the consumption of trillions of individual items around the planet.”

He notes that we have to find a different way of servicing the needs of consumers, and ultimately encouraging the consumers to join businesses in the journey through showing them the benefits of a circular economy.

For more about the Circular Economy, visit our World Economic Forum Circular Economy Initiative page.