Month: July 2024

Top 10: Brands Embracing the Circular Economy

By: Lucy Bucholz
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Credit: Getty Images

Brands are adopting a circular economy to promote sustainability and economic benefits, thus meeting consumer demand. Here, we pick out the top 10 of 2023

More brands have been embracing the concept of a circular economy over the past few years as a way of promoting sustainable development and reducing the impact of human activity on the environment. 

A circular economy is an economic model that emphasises the efficient use and reuse of resources, products and materials in order to minimise waste and pollution. By prioritising circular economies, brands are able to capitalise on economic benefits, while also meeting the ever-rising demand for sustainable strategists from consumers. 

That’s why, we’ve rounded up our top 10 brands embracing the circular economy in 2023.

1. Patagonia 

Patagonia has been at the forefront of the circular economy movement since first making a sustainability commitment in 1986. The apparel brand aims to reduce its environmental impact through a number of different initiatives, including The Worn Wear programme, which encourages customers to repair, reuse, and recycle their garments. The programme offers a repair service that addresses any damages to the clothing, as well as a trade-in option where customers are provided with store credits for used Patagonia clothing. Through this initiative, Patagonia has successfully prolonged the lifespan of its products while also minimising waste.

The brand also introduced a line of clothing that incorporates recycled materials and uses organic cotton and other sustainable fibres. By adopting sustainable materials, Patagonia is making strides to reduce the environmental impact of its products and promote a circular economy.


Swedish home-retail conglomerate IKEA has made strides towards a circular economy and sustainability initiatives with three main commitments: The take-back programme, circular services and investing in sustainable materials. 

Firstly, the Take-Back programme allows IKEA customers to return their furniture to be either repurposed or recycled, helping to promote a circular economy. The company also allows customers to rent items or buy refurbished furniture to promote the reuse of products and encourage customers to practise sustainable shopping habits. Finally, many products are made from FSC-certified wood and recycled plastic to reduce the company’s impact.

3. Unilever

Unilever, a multinational consumer goods corporation, has prioritised sustainability and circular economy goals by undertaking various measures to advance its objectives. For example, all products use sustainable ingredients, such as ethically-sourced palm oil, to mitigate their environmental impact. The company has also pledged to reduce packaging waste by 2025 by 2025, while also establishing a recycling programme to increase education and enhance recycling rates. 

4. Accenture 

Accenture is a company that utilises advanced technologies and partners with leading organisations like Mastercard, Amazon Web Services, Everledger, and Mercy Corps to advance its circular supply chain capability. The aim of this capability is to enhance financial inclusion, promote sustainable practices, and empower consumers. With this approach, Accenture ensures that its clients achieve their corporate sustainability goals through better resource planning and utilisation.

5. H&M

Fashion giant H&M has made a significant commitment to its ESG initiatives, such as reducing waste and promoting sustainable practices. One of these initiatives is its garment collection programme, which enables customers to return used clothing for recycling or repurposing. Additionally, H&M is dedicated to utilising sustainable materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester in its products, which has reduced the environmental impact of its products while promoting the circular economy. 

6. Adidas 

Adidas is a prime example of how a big business can change and take responsibility for its role in the plastic problem and pledge to use its influence to make a positive impact. The sportswear giant launched the ‘Three Loop Strategy’ consisting of three interrelated initiatives. The first loop involves recycling plastic waste, the second involves designing shoes that can be remade and the third loop focuses on regeneration, where Adidas aims to use biodegradable materials that will disintegrate naturally into their surroundings. 

7. Interface

Flooring company Interface has taken a strong stance towards sustainability and promoting a circular economy by initiating various measures to achieve its goal. One of their significant approaches is adopting a closed-loop manufacturing process, using recycled materials to make their carpet tiles. When tiles have reached the end of their life, they are collected and recycled into new products, reducing waste and fostering a circular economy. 

8. HP 

HP has been incorporating circular practices into its operations for nearly two decades by collecting used ink cartridges. In recent years, the company has further intensified its recycling efforts, by launching the world’s first monitor and an entire PC made from ocean-bound plastics. The company’s overall goal is to become net-zero by 2040, with 100% renewable energy.

9. TrusTrace 

TrusTrace is on a mission to introduce transparency to both producers and consumers in the fashion industry, which accounts for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions. With its cutting-edge digital platform, the company aims to raise awareness about individual responsibilities and promote best practices, having already attracted over 10,000 users. The company’s exceptional dedication to sustainability and circular economy has earned it the prestigious Solar Impulse label.

10. Mud Jean 

Mud Jean uses recycled denim to make new pairs of jeans, which customers can lease for just under €10 per month. This initiative allows customers to avoid buying jeans they will rarely wear, thus contributing to a closed-material loop. To participate in the Mud Jeans leasing programme, customers can send in an old pair of jeans and receive their first month of leasing for free. From there, customers can choose to continue their subscription and receive a new pair of Muds each month or end their subscription after the initial month.

Get Acquainted With the Core Principles of a Circular Economy

By: Inogen Alliance
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Modern industry has long perpetuated a linear economy. This model relies on the continued extraction of new materials and ultimately leads to an accumulation of waste. A circular economy, on the other hand, strives to function in ways that reduce waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in circulation for longer.

Read on to learn more about the practices and principles of a circular economy, and its economic, environmental, and social benefits.

The 4 Rs That Underpin a Circular Economy

Before we examine the core principles of a circular economy, let’s first revisit the basics. It’s fair to say that most people are familiar with the concept of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” What is less commonly discussed – yet extremely important to developing a true circular economy – is the fourth R: recover.

Here is what each of these practices means when applied to business:

  • Reduce: Minimizing waste before it’s even created by engaging in design and production processes that prioritize lifespan and sustainability.
  • Reuse: Finding new ways to use products or materials, extending the functional lifespan of the item and enabling it to circulate within the economy for as long as possible.
  • Recycle: Breaking down products into their raw materials and manufacturing new items from them. While this is by far the most publicized, recycling is often seen as a last resort in the hierarchy of circular practices.
  • Recover: Reclaiming materials or energy from products that can no longer be reused or recycled. This can mean everything from composting organic materials to capturing energy from waste.

The 3 Core Principles of a Circular Economy

The following three principles are central to establishing a circular economy within your business.

Eliminating waste

This principle involves rethinking how resources are used at every stage of a product’s lifecycle, from design to disposal.

For businesses, this could mean:

  • Using recycled material in manufacturing rather than raw materials.
  • Designing products with modularity, allowing for easy repair or upgrade.
  • Choosing manufacturing processes that minimize offcuts and scrap.

Keeping materials in use

To break the cycle of the use-and-dispose economy, keeping materials in use as long as possible is crucial.

Here are examples of how you can apply this principle:

  • Developing take-back schemes or leasing models where products are returned to you after use, ensuring they are either reused, refurbished, or responsibly recycled.
  • Facilitating a secondary market for your products or materials, extending their lifecycle beyond initial use.

Regenerating natural systems

Engaging in the circular economy isn’t simply about reducing negative impacts on the environment – it focuses on using regenerative practices to restore natural systems and enhance biodiversity.

In practice, this may look like:

  • Investing in technologies or processes that restore soil health, clean water, and air quality through your business operations.
  • Partnering with organizations working towards reforestation or ocean clean-ups to offset the ecological footprint of your operations.

Circular Economy Benefits and Advantages

Embracing a circular economy presents many benefits that span environmental, economic, and social spheres.

Environmental benefits

Through engaging in the practices of reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover, your company can have a net-positive impact on the environment. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, businesses can also contribute to better soil and water conditions by reducing waste across all product lifecycle touchpoints, such as material extraction, manufacturing and packaging.

In terms of regenerative efforts, businesses that proactively design campuses with restoration in mind can have a hand in expanding natural habitats, contributing to cleaner water sheds, and promoting soil health.

Economic benefits

Reducing material costs through reuse, recycling, and recovery can lead to significant financial savings. Additionally, circular economy models like product-as-a-service offer new revenue streams and financial incentives that challenge traditional business models.

Following the principles of a circular economy can also appeal to investors, who are continuing to prioritize sustainability. A recent report by Morgan Stanley found that “A majority of investors … believe that companies should address environmental and social issues.” These investors reported being motivated by the financial performance of sustainable investments and new climate science findings.

Social benefits

Circular economy initiatives often involve collaboration between businesses, local governments, and communities. These joint efforts help each party better understand the needs and challenges of the other, and can lead to stronger community relationships.

The principles of circular economy do not allow for planned obsolescence, meaning products are built to be more durable and long-lasting, offering consumers a break from having to replace important items every few years.

Implementing Circular Economy Principles

While organizational needs can vary greatly from industry to industry, there are some key steps that must be taken in order to effectively implement circular economy principles.

1. Conduct a thorough assessment

Begin by evaluating your current operations, supply chain, and products or services to identify areas where circular economy principles can be applied. This assessment will help you understand the potential impact and feasibility of implementing circular practices within your business. 

2. Set clear goals and targets

Establish specific, measurable, and achievable goals for your circular economy initiatives. Whether it’s reducing waste, increasing resource efficiency, or designing products for reuse and recycling, having clear targets will enable you to track progress and adjust goals as needed as well as promote your progress to customers.

3. Collaborate with stakeholders

Engage with suppliers, customers, industry partners, and other stakeholders to gain a broader perspective of your organization’s impact. Building partnerships can help overcome challenges, access resources, and drive innovation in implementing circular economy practices.

Embrace the Circular Economy: Begin a New Cycle

The benefits of a circular economy are clear – and the need is urgent. As the human and financial toll of climate change continues to grow around the world, governments, businesses, and social institutions are collaborating to reduce impact and improve well-being. The circular economy model is a significant step toward these goals.