Workshop focuses on running successful businesses in the circular economy
The second of two workshops on the 'circular economy' organised by a team of academics from the Department of Business and Management was held on 11May, focusing on the question of how small and medium-sized enterprises can adopt circular principles while also remaining profitable.
The previous workshop, led by Dr Mirela Xheneti, Dr Shova Thapa Karki and Dr Ödül Bozkurt in January, had amply demonstrated the groundswell of interest in transitioning from a ‘linear economy’ based on a ‘take-make-dispose’ approach to a ‘circular economy’ - where waste is not only recaptured and reused but also designed out.
Yet, the very well-attended event had also shown that while policy makers, local and regional government bodies, NGOs and researchers are very keen to promote this transition, running individual businesses on circular principles poses its own challenges.
Providing a platform to exchange ideas among businesses pursuing circular models, the May workshop had as its primary goal the understanding of how circular businesses articulate their value proposition and reach consumers.
Max McMurdo, the founder of Reestore and a TV presenter, kicked off the event with his thoroughly engaging presentation. Max, known for the design of upcycled furniture and accessories from objects destined for landfill, shared his experiences of designing and creating upcycled goods, as well as his ambitions in promoting a culture of upcycling and recycling through his work in the media. The participating businesses from a range of fields as varied as architecture, construction, children’s textiles, wood recycling and packaged water had an opportunity to ask Max questions about the commercial viability of adopting his tips and approach, and engaged in a lively discussion.
The academic team also provided some structured ‘study time’ for the participating businesses, getting them to think about the fit between what their business offers and why consumers buy from them, using some core management concepts and frameworks. Participants found this exercise of self-reflection both challenging and rewarding, sharing their approaches and experiences in a highly interactive and collaborative manner.
There was much food for thought to take away from the workshop and the conversation between businesses and the University of Sussex academic team promises to be a long-lasting, supportive one in further developing both business practice and theorising on the circular economy.
The academic team next present some of their thinking and research at the IDS and SPRU Conference on Sustainable Lifestyles, Livelihoods and the Circular Economy, to be held in Brighton from 27-29 June.