4 Activities that will become ‘De-Facto’ for running profitable ventures by 2020 in the Circular Economy

At 10PM Friday evening, over a mug of hot Irish coffee, I was reflecting on the day’s Treeni’s ‘Sustainability for Breakfast’ series catch-up with sustainability practitioners and leaders. I have been through many events and talks around sustainability till date, but today was different. The audience engaged actively and without holding back, what followed was an hour long intense action oriented discussion. Much has been said about circular economy and all the sustainability/ marketing leaders, CEOs/ MDs, know that circularity is the future.

Will answering the following 2 questions help these leaders initiate action in Circular Economy?

  1. Will it be commercially profitable to start running my operations in a circular manner?
  2. How can we make it commercially profitable and sustainable on growth metrics?

“We are now part of the Circular Economy” might be an overwhelming thought for the leaders in any industry.

We neither have to get circularity right in the first attempt, nor do we have to do everything in circularity at one go. Circularity is a thought process and it’s about starting the journey without having to necessarily disrupt everything that we do right now. Achieving excellence in being circular in operation is a continuous process, it’s a matter of habit after we start.

Following are result oriented actions that can be taken by progressive leaders, without a lot of change immediately, and be leaders in enacting Circularity:

  1. Save at least 20% cost on material acquisition: Lookout for 2 companies that produce the best quality by-products of input value to your business (such as information, materials, water, energy, infrastructure, and natural resources).  tart exploring alternatives to material acquisition through their by-products and tie-up with them for sourcing.
  2. Identify 2 end of life revenue opportunities for your products: Identify 2 potential uses of your products after its end of life, first without changing the underlying design of the product. These could be recycling or refurbishing them for further use in similar or different usage area or circled back into your business.
  3. Use innovation for improved branding and remarketing: Above 2 actions are fertile grounds for innovation. Large enterprises are creating patents through the work in the above 2 areas. Patents have potential to create amazing brand value. This is useful to drive value of refurbished/ recycled products in buyer community by highlighting how they will contribute to sustainability and Circular Economy by buying these products.
  4. Insights based actions: Ability to measure sustainability impact of each action on either side (positive and negative) and using those insights is the key to success for all of the above. Look at technologies that can potentially offer real time visibility to this impact and are able to create a simulated result dashboard for actions in Circularity.

One of the most interesting takeaways for me personally from this breakfast catch-up has been the ‘Hyper Collaboration of Patented technologies’ in the Circular Economy. Sharing of patents by Elon Musk in 2014 changed the way companies look at patents to create a larger social value. Circularity demands collaboration.

Treeni ‘Sustainability for Breakfast’ discussions need to lead to tangible actions for all participants. Reflecting back, it was indeed a nourishing day in terms of inputs from all participants! The coffee was over and so was the day for me.

Circular Economy


Nature is made up of different cycles, whether it is the seasons, water, or even human life, and our responsibility as businesses on this earth is to take inspiration from the cyclical nature of the earth and use it in our manufacturing processes. A circular economy allows us to retain the value of material longer, ensure it is kept in circulation and increase the longevity of any product. In a circular economy, the damage to the environment is reduced, due to increased durability, reuse, reparability, remanufacturing and recycling of products and materials. Both products and materials ‘circulate’ in the economy far longer, rather than passing quickly through it, becoming garbage and pollution. What was waste once may now become feedstock and boost the productivity of the organisation. A circular economy fuels sustainability, and besides the environmental benefits, a sustainable approach can help any business to save costs, explore untapped opportunities for business, and even create employment. To ensure that the circular economy becomes a fully inclusive model of development, there is a need to make it accessible and implementable for all. This means actively creating pathways to success for small-to-medium entities and emerging economies. We can move from take, make, dump approach to a design, source, make, rent, repair/refurbish, Return, Recycle approach. The circular economy is a system of great potential for economic, social and environmental progress in inclusive and equitable models of strategy and development. But to start on the path to success, we need brave first movers to understand how circular economy expands the core business model — and take actions at decisive points in the system where their impact will be maximized.

Companies Attending:
Mahindra CIE
Mahindra Sanyo
Tech Mahindra
Tata Motors Ltd.
Tata Tech
Sterlite Technologies
Whirlpool India