This article looks into the main barrier to the circular economy and how it can be overcome.


Talk about the circular economy and circular economy business models has become commonplace. However, the translation of these bold ideals into practice has not happened in a widespread fashion.

That is in part because unlike sustainability where companies can make small cuts to their carbon footprint and tout this as a huge success. Transitioning to a circular economy business model requires a fundamental reappraisal and rewiring of how the business creates value. This is its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

But it is possible, even for big companies to become more circular. As the Fast Company article which you can find via the link below makes clear, there are businesses that have managed to overcome the barriers to the circular economy and achieve economic and environmental successes. It is not as difficult as it is perceived to be.

If These Giant Companies Can Switch To The Circular Economy, So Can Anyone

The main barrier that was identified was not technological, it was not environmental and it had nothing to do with the laws of thermodynamics. It was inertia.

Inertia was identified as the main factor which is preventing businesses from becoming more circular and keeping them trapped in a take, make, waste frame of thinking.

This however can be overcome, but it takes time. It needs a focus on communication to employees, customers and if it is a public company the shareholders.

These communications need to change the way these stakeholders think and make them comfortable with the company operating in new, more circular ways.

It helps if there is a line drawn in the sand, where everyone acknowledges that business as usual is not an option and that a new, more circular strategy is what is called for.

It was not included in the Fast Company article, but executive level buy in and support is a necessity for a circular transition to take place. It requires too much of a business transformation for this to be entrusted solely to the sustainability or corporate responsibility team. It is about creating a different kind of business, one capable of sustaining itself with a world population significantly larger than we have now and with higher levels of affluence and consumption than we have now.

What you need to know

This article looked into the main barrier to the circular economy and how it can be overcome.

We looked into how rhetoric around the circular economy has not translated into reality.

We looked into how inertia presents a significant barrier to the circular economy.

But through communication, this barrier is not insurmountable and it can be overcome.

Transitioning from a take, make, waste way of operating to a circular economy business model is tough. Which is why it is currently only the preserve of the most farsighted businesses.

But if more businesses were to lift their time horizons from quarters to years and decades, they would see a global population growing exponentially with affluence and consumption among the new global middle class exploding. Current ways of operating are simply unsustainable and more circular ways are called for.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to increase the take up of circular approaches amongst businesses?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


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