Le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché du Luxembourg
Harald Friedl

Using the circular economy to evoke a paradigm shift

Ahead of the Circular by Design Challenge awards ceremony taking place at the Philharmonie Luxembourg on 16 May 2023, we caught up with “Circular growth Guru” and CEO of Green Leadership, Harald Friedl, who will deliver the keynote speech during the ceremony.

What will be the key messages you would like to deliver for the Circular by Design Challenge awards ceremony?

Harald Friedl: I will give a global view on where the circular economy transition is at the moment as I’m working in several continents, from Africa to America and Europe. As a global speaker on this topic, I want to give people a complete idea on what’s happening globally. A lot is happening in the EU, for example, the European Green Deal and the EU circular economy package. At the Circular by Design Challenge, I want to give people a feeling on why this is relevant to them and how they can link their search for purpose in life to what they’re doing in their business and organisations. Because as you’re implementing the circular economy on your level, you’re really putting people and the planet first and I think that leads to more happiness.

Why is it important to make circularity go viral?

Without the circular economy and the implementation of circular economy strategies on a national scale, we will not be able to reach the climate goals. It’s very clear that climate goals can help to half the gap that is still left after the ambitions we set in 2016 at the climate conference in Paris. Therefore, the circular economy needs to be adopted on a broad scale. It is also an opportunity to address the challenges we are having at the moment, not only on the economic level but also on an environmental and social level. We’re able to use the circular economy to design a new paradigm on how we want to work and live together.

What makes circularity appealing to companies based on your experience working with clients?

The Chief Executive Officer of Holcim, Jan Jenisch, has called it the biggest business opportunity of our lifetime. I think it is a way to “future proof” your business because it helps you reach the climate goals, but it also reinforces your internal engagement. For employers its clearly important to show that your company or your organisation is fit for the future, and this future needs to be aligned with what the planet and the people need. The circular economy presents a powerful strategy and roadmap to achieve this.

On a national scale, what methods are effective to boost the adoption of circular models by companies that may still be a bit hesitant?

On a national scale, smart policymaking is key. As long as new resources are cheaper, second-hand resources will be difficult to go into circular models. I think one way is to really work on the consumer side to awaken new consumer behaviour and awareness. Another way is to shape financing models in a way that they’re more suitable to support the circular economy and smart policymaking. For example, promoting the secondary use of materials, product-as-a-service or any reuse model is a good way to do that. In many countries where we see the circular economy taking off, they have invested in building circular economy hubs… the knowledge is coming together, platforms and safe places for collaboration are being created.

What do you think of the Circular by Design Challenge as a tool to drive circularity?

It’s amazing! Design is a big lever for circularity, so I appreciate and support it very much. Design needs to be done differently, so not just to stop at the end of the chain but to bring things back into the circle. This starts at the beginning before anything is produced. When any product is being designed, it should be made for reuse to ensure we maximise the use of the product and the value of its materials for the longest time possible. This is definitely the way to go. I’m really looking forward to the interesting ideas, products and services that will be presented there. The more we bring this to the forefront and incorporate this thinking into the mindset of designers--not only product designers but anyone making anything—we can change the system early into a much smarter one that works for the people and the planet.

Photo credit: Bmk / Gillen

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