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Two Steps Forward

Introducing … Circularity 19

Today, we are very proud to introduce our newest event brand: Circularity, a three-day conference focusing on the systemic shifts to a circular economy and the trillion-dollar markets therein. Circularity will join GreenBiz and VERGE on the GreenBiz Group annual event calendar.

The premiere event, Circularity 19, will be June 18-20, 2019, in Minneapolis.

I couldn’t be more excited about Circularity. We’ve been tracking the rise of the circular economy for nearly four years: our first article appeared on January 1, 2015. Since then, we’ve published 275 articles, podcasts and event videos on the topic — and the subject (and our coverage) is just ramping up. Earlier this year, we launched a newsletter, Circular Weekly, written by my colleague Lauren Phipps, published every Friday. We’ve already made circularity a track at our annual GreenBiz conference and created an entire circular economy event within our annual VERGE conference. Both will continue.

So, why a new, standalone conference?

Because the circular economy is a really big deal. From the perspective of my 30 years in sustainability, it is the first framework that is truly systemic in nature (with all due respect to my friends involved with The Natural Step, Future Fit and other systems-level frameworks that have found niche followings, and which are complementary to circularity).

The circular economy is transformational, not just transactional; disruptive, not incremental.
The circular economy is a radically different way of doing business, requiring a company to engage its entire value chain — or is it now a value loop? — as well as its competitors and others, toward the goal of radically rethinking product designs, manufacturing processes and systems of commerce to keep materials in flow, safely and continuously. It is transformational, not just transactional; disruptive, not incremental. It can be regenerative, restoring resources and ecosystems.

And it can engender resilience, making cities, regions and supply chains better able to adapt to shocks and disruptions of all kinds. Moreover, a circular economy has the potential to catalyze opportunities at every part of the economic spectrum, including in traditionally marginalized communities and developing economies.

It is, in short, a game-changer.

The appeal of a circular economy to business is evident. Witness the blue-chip roster of companies that have joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE100, among several precompetitive collaborations in this space, as well as those that already have claimed some circular products or business models, even if some may be warmed-over versions of legacy recycling or takeback programs. (Critics already have dubbed this phenomenon “circular washing.”)

Whether genuine or greenwash, such corporate messaging speaks to the growing appeal of circularity as a concept, and the recognition that, going forward, companies will need to have a circular economy point of view, if not actual success stories.

Going forward, companies will need to have a circular economy point of view, if not actual success stories.
And it is a massive business opportunity: $4.5 trillion in annual GDP growth by 2030, according to Accenture. The opportunities exist globally, across multiple markets and sectors, with a strong emphasis in retail, consumer goods, apparel and technology firms — and everything from carpets to car parts.

The goal of Circularity 19 is to help define and accelerate this opportunity, elevating concepts, companies and best practices, inspiring and informing participants on how to transform their strategies and operations. We’ll cover design and materials, market development, tools and technologies, logistics and infrastructure, standards and metrics, packaging innovations and customer engagement. With more than 80 speakers in more than 100 sessions, the conference will emphasize collaboration and ideation, with design charrettes and other interactive sessions, some spanning multi-hour time blocks.

We’ll be joined at the event by the world’s leading circular economy organizations, beginning with our Principal Partner, the aforementioned Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which, more than any other entity, has framed the opportunity and led the charge, providing foundational research and convening companies to collaboratively explore the topic.

Behind them is a terrific roster of Community Partners, including: the Biomimicry Institute, BSR, Carbon 180, the C&A Foundation, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, Closed Loop Partners, the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, Second Muse, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

That’s a lot of firepower. I hope you can be there to join us in seizing the moment.

You can learn more about the event here and suggest potential speakers here.

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