Janine Thies on How to Shift from a Capitalist Mindset to a Circular One

With resources becoming more and more scarce, it’s time to rethink the way we produce and consume. Our CIRCULAZE jury member Janine Thies, Co-Founder and Coach at pureEdge and Circularity Manager at BMW AG, is confident that with the right mindset we can transform our current system into a sustainable one

by Janine Thies | Feb 23, 2023

1. Why does the topic of the Circular Economy have to be on the agenda of every company? Why is it worthwhile?

In today’s uncertain and complex economy, it’s the answer to the questions of stability, cost reduction, innovation capability, and resource security. What is important here is a deep anchoring in the DNA of companies.

With the holistic approach of the Circular Economy, companies are shown concrete ways and possibilities for action, what they can do “hands-on” and measurable to counteract climate change, the loss of biodiversity and, at the same time, remain profitable and sustainable in the long term.

2. What are the biggest challenges?

Big picture thinking and investing (making money available for long-term issues), a deep understanding and action of the employees in the sense of the Circular Economy, embedding this into the DNA of the company, and finding clear, simple, and cost-effective ways to close the cycle.

Capitalism is the belief in the limitless growth of the economy. This belief contradicts pretty much everything we know about the universe. A pack of wolves would be committing a fatal error if they believed that the supply of sheep would keep growing.

Yuval Noah Harari, A Brief History of Mankind

3. How would you convince people who are still critical towards the topic?

With the following question: What kind of world do you want to leave to your family and friends?

4. A thought-leader, book, or podcast you would recommend?

A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions by Muhammad Yunus helps us to better understand how a business-to-society approach works and why companies must shift to it.

Julie Decker’s Gyre: The Plastic Ocean is also great to zoom out on what has been happening with waste that we don’t see any more and what concrete impact it has on the ocean, animals, and us. We are all one and depend on nature.

5. What are the key requirements for the Circular Economy to succeed and eventually become standard?

In my view, there are 3 important levels that can create the conditions for a fully inclusive Circular Economy:

  1. At the corporate level: create awareness, empower employees, align evaluation systems along climate goals, and shift from a pure profit-focused business case to a sustainable one.
  2. At the policy level: introduction of a tax bonus-malus system, new laws for cross-company cooperation, strong subsidies for practices that pay into the CE, and financial support for start-ups.
  3. At the societal/family level: regular discourse and self-reflection. What brands do we use? How do their values fit with us? What can we share with others instead of buying new? What can we do without?

A way to transform our current system to a Circular Economy stands and falls with us actors. This means understanding in which ecosystems (e.g. company, family, association, etc.) we act daily and to actively use this immense lever for climate-positive impact.

There is no such thing as waste – only wasted resources.

John Verhoeven

For the full paper, click on the image to download the PDF.