Lena Thiede on the Circular Economy and the Need for Collaboration

Lena Thiede, Founding Partner of Planet A, a venture capital fund that invests in European Greentech start-ups, is responsible for scientific impact assessment at Planet A. For Lena, collaboration is key for the circular economy to succeed

by Natascha Zeljko | May 2, 2023

“We are becoming increasingly aware that the current take-mak”e-waste economy is not safe – for the planet or for people.”

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

Using and reusing natural capital as efficiently as possible and finding value throughout the life cycles of products can increase the profitability of companies while reducing their dependency on natural resources. This might include a shift to renewable energy and materials, keeping materials in closed loops by recycling or remanufacturing, promoting a sharing economy, or otherwise prolonging the life spans of products through design and maintenance. We can do so much more with less.

2. What are the biggest challenges?

The circular economy represents a radical shift in perspective – from improving value chains to better meeting human needs. This will require investing in and scaling innovative technologies, supportive regulatory frameworks, economic incentives, new business models, changes in consumer behavior, as well as new metrics beyond GDP.

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

We are becoming increasingly aware that the current take-make-waste economy is not safe – for the planet or for people. Circular solutions can reverse this trend, allowing us to satisfy people’s needs within the safe boundaries of the planet.

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

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Robinson: a new UN climate-crisis unit tackles global warming in this chilling yet hopeful story about how the next few decades might unfold.

Planetary Podcast by business magazine brand eins and Planet A develops a positive vision of an economy within the planetary boundaries and discusses the technological innovations we need to get there (in German).

5. What are the key requirements for the circular economy to succeed and eventually become standard?

The key for the circular economy will be collaboration. We need to involve many stakeholders for innovative design and materials for circularity, education and awareness, investments in circular infrastructure, waste reduction and resource efficiency, supportive policy and regulatory frameworks, and consumer demand for sustainable products and services.