If you studied sustainability in school or have even a casual interest in the circular economy, you’ve almost certainly heard of Interface, a carpet company that has a 50-plus-year history of being at the forefront of both corporate sustainability and circularity. I’m dating myself a bit here, but I vividly remember the first time I learned about Interface and its totally radical (at the time) business model, which involved treating flooring as a service instead of a product so that it could take carpeting back at the end of its useful life and reuse the materials. It was the first time I’d heard of anything like it — and it’s what started me on my transition to working at the intersection of business and sustainability.
Thanks to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and organizations like it, circular business models are more likely to be considered imperative than radical these days. Global companies such as Starbucks and Walmart are piloting reusable packaging programs both independently and in partnership with organizations such as Loop, and as Upstream’s 2023 Reusies awards showed, there’s no shortage of innovators working on the many pieces of the puzzle that make up a circular economy. There’s still work to be done to scale a lot of these solutions, but it’s exciting to see offerings such as Returnity’s reusable packaging system and Patagonia's Worn Wear becoming more mainstream.
There are an incredible number of dimensions to the circular economy, so it can be somewhat daunting to know where to start. If you’re new to the basic principles of the circular economy, there are four great free or inexpensive options below to get you started. If you’ve got the basics down, the circular business models section lists seven courses that can provide you with step-by-step guidance for developing and implementing a circularity strategy at your company, most of which have links to even more tools and training.