Alexandre Lemille, founder and managing director of Wizeimpact, explains what circular economy 2.0 is, and how our global economic system could be changed to address the well-being of all on the planet.

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Highlights of our conversation:

  • Public value means playing in a new field, where business, society, and the environment are fully embedded and function together. It also means going away from our current system, how we are organised and governed.
  • With the circular economy, we can now invest in a new economy that focuses on a regenerative system. The underlying assumption of the circular economy is no longer to operate with revenues against services, but to rely on the stock already existing to increase the resilience of a given company, and also manage the stock coming back to this given company. Circular economy is about best avoiding future risks by responsibly managing stocks. Stocks here are biological, technological, or knowledge. There is an urgent need to discuss this approach at systemic level if we want to help our planet.
  • Lemille’s work on circular economy 2.0 is about skills and knowledge. Although these are intangible resources, they are key to the success of circular economy.
  • Waste and waste management are linear concepts. Once a product is consumed, it becomes waste and has to be managed. In a circular economy, the concept of waste no longer exists. Products are designed in such a way that they become “accessible” and have a specific function before they return to the service provider and are offered to someone else. All unused resources are seen as highly valuable. Just like there is no waste in a forest, where everything is being reused.
  • Recycling is also a linear concept as it destroys material and needs a lot of energy. It is far more efficient to reuse, not necessarily recycle. The various loops in circular economy (reusing; maintaining and repairing; redistributing; and remanufacturing) are the ones creating value to society.
  • The African Circular Economy network is active in 29 countries to find innovative approaches that would boost circular economy on the African continent and lead by example at global level. This could also represent an opportunity for Europe if partnerships are maintained with such economic model. The African continent could become a leader in a global circular economy.

Back to a human scale

  • Circular economy 2.0 includes the human sphere and addresses both inequality and environmental challenges. Economy is a tool that is meant to optimise the well-being of people on this planet. We apply the circular economy concept (no waste) to society and believe that there should be no inequality nor poverty. Our planet has vast biological, human, and technological stocks that are interconnected and could be used for our well-being. These are endless flows of energy that need to be considered differently to welcome our growing population.
  • In other words, the challenge is to re-design an economy at human scale. This would be an economy that would be low energy, low tech, based on well-being and back at human scale. Artificial intelligence and new technologies are needed. But so is the value of people who could play an even more active role in the next model. This means letting go the growth belief.
  • To change the current economic model, a fundamental reform of our tax system is needed, increasing taxes on scarce resources and removing a certain amount of labour taxes. A circular economy 2.0 should be designed at systemic level, taking into account the interconnectiveness of the existing stocks [biological, human, and technological]. Corporates should play a key role as they have the most impact, but the economic re-design must be achieved by regulators, just as New Zealand did by adopting a well-being budget.
  • Success will come if the starting point lies in peoples’ needs. The next economic model will no longer be product-based, but service-based. It will be a long-term economy –a ‘being economy’, instead of a ‘having economy’- with less pressure on the economic return and where relationships will become one of the most valuable resources.

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