• Description
  • Transcript

The linear economy’s, 'take, make, waste' approach has been the dominant business model on which our current economy has run since the Industrial Revolution.

And it’s worked. For centuries, billions of people have been empowered to live incredible lives with roofs over their heads, warm clothes, highly advanced medicine, and a seemingly endless supply of luxury products.

But in recent years, the core limitation of this model has become clear: resources on this planet are finite. We now know that if we degrade, pollute and extract at our current rate, the consequences will be dire if not catastrophic.

In this episode of The Big Question, IDEO CMO Detria Williamson asks Joe Iles, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Design Programme Lead and Chris Grantham, IDEO Circular Economy Executive Director how might we create the conditions for designing a radically different restorative and regenerative business model.

Joe and Chris share how businesses can begin this transformative process, how brands like Tesco, H&M and Zalando are already making the shift, and why businesses should prioritize delivering services over selling products.

Joe Iles: Can we move from extraction and consumption, and how long will it take? I hope that we'll be able to look back in this moment where waste and pollution became synonymous with our economy. It's really accelerated in the past 60 years. I hope that we'll be able to look back on that as a blip because we've moved to something that is regenerative and restorative and circular.

Detria Williamson: We live and work in a world of interlocking systems where many of the problems we face are dynamic, multifaceted, and inherently human. We believe that design thinking can help solve these problems to provide answers, but big answers can only be found by asking big questions. Welcome to The Big Question: an IDEO Podcast. I'm your host, Detria Williamson.

This is Detria and in this episode of The Big Question, we're joined by Chris Grantham, Executive Director, Circular Economy at IDEO, and our very special guest who is on a mission for us to have a better planet, Joe Iles, Circular Design Program Lead at Ellen MacArthur Foundation and one of the creators of the Disruptive Innovation Festival. To explore the big question today for how might we create the conditions for designing a radically different restorative and regenerative business model: First, tell us a little bit about yourselves and how did you two meet?

Joe: Hi, I'm Joe. I'm the Circular Design Program Lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, as you just said that. My role there is to really try and inspire and equip the world's designers. We believe there are a lot of designers in the world. There are a lot of people who influence the way that we make and use things and ultimately influence the way that our economy works. My role is really to try and inspire and engage those designers and creators to shift their practice towards a circular economy, helping to build a more circular and regenerative economy.

Detria: Thanks, Joe. Chris, tell us a little bit about you.

Chris Grantham: Yes, I'm stuck here in Sussex at the moment, which is looking very nice and autumnal. Usually, pre-pandemic I was working in London, which is where I met Joe back five years ago now. I'll never forget meeting Joe because Joe walked in with his boss, and I was with my boss, and Joe looked more like a designer than I did, basically [laughs]. He's more like a designer than most designers look like. I think Joe was always destined to lead the circular design program at the foundation.

We've been really having fun trying to figure out how on earth we scale circular design and this idea of a restorative and regenerative economy. A lot of my time is spent really trying to figure out how we create the conditions for organizations to really adopt those principles of scale and help, I suppose, IDEO reflects on the craft, if you like, of circular design. So it’s a bit of a dual role. It's very much an evolving and a field of many opinions. It's really a fun area to work and one in which we can't pretend to have all the answers at all, but one in which we're seeing a lot of progress all the time and that's really exciting.

Joe Iles: If I could just add to that, that first meeting was one of, I guess, that exposed our preconceptions about what we thought each other's organization did. I remember speaking to you, Chris, about packaging design and this is something that Ellen MacArthur Foundation has worked quite a lot in is around eliminating the problem of plastic packaging pollution. We were quite interested in how tiny design tweaks could make a big impact, like the way that a ring pull on an aluminum drink's can. Years ago, that would become completely detached and would be a waste problem, a tiny piece of waste.

At some point, someone made the smart decision to keep that ring pull attached to the can so that you just have one piece of aluminum. Those are the types of tiny industrial design tweaks that my boss and I were quite keen to talk to IDEO about. Quite quickly, Chris explained, well, design is much bigger than that if we're talking about the design of services, the design of organizations and of ecosystems, really. It's taken me and I think others who are interested in the circular economy quite a few years to truly understand how the iceberg goes on that.

Detria: It's interesting hearing just how far back Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO go back. I've also heard both of you talk quite a bit about really this theme of needing a break from linear business models, these business models of the past. I'm sure everyone would love to hear more about that.

Joe: Yes, really, the linear economy, this take-make-waste model was something that — It hasn't been around forever, but as far as we're concerned, it really is the dominant model by which our economy runs. It's been around pretty much since the industrial revolution where we, as an economy, as a society, we got really good at extracting materials and energy from the ground, making them into things that we want and need, using things like the production line and advertising and cheap credit to make that all work.

We convinced ourselves that we could chuck things away when we didn't want them anymore or didn't need them anymore and we didn't have to worry about the consequences. With that model, it did enable many people, billions of people throughout the past few 100 years to have some amazing things and not just luxury things or indulgent things, but medicines and healthier food and a roof over their head and warm clothes and communication technology, transport. That linear model, whilst we could ignore some of the negatives, or the limits of that model, it works for raising the living standards of many people.

The thing that's changed now is really our awareness and how confronted we are by the limits of that model. We know that resources are finite, we know that if we degrade and pollute and extract continuously, that we can't run from the consequences. We can sense, I think, that there is also a yearning from society for something better, for something that is more enriching than this endless linear chain of extraction and consumption. That's really a big picture scale, why we need a break from linear models, as you say.

Detria: Chris, would you agree with that?

Chris: Yes, I most definitely would [laughs]. It's interesting, you don't get so much a sense of this if you just read the FT and you just exist in a corporate echo chamber. I think what you're really seeing is two quite distinct paradigms, one emergent and one dominant, existing in the world at the moment when it comes to really the purpose of the economy and the role of business.

I think you've got the known model that we have, which we've been trying to make more efficient, bending that linear economy in ways that can make it more sustainable. You see a lot of companies talking about using circularity or sustainability to — There's a lot of quick wins where they're building new efficiencies in their business by being less wasteful. Ultimately, these are some little detours for material flows in an ultimately linear direction still, unfortunately. We know that plastic pollution is still mounting in the world, just to state one problem.

There is tension, I suppose, between the efforts to make the industrial machine less bad and your question was about, ‘how do we create a regenerative and restorative business model?’ Well, that is a clearly distinct break from the prevailing system, the system that many are trying to make more efficient and less and less polluting. That distinct break, you see it more in small business communities, in communities, in cities innovation, is really looking to build a distinctly different shape, different culture around growth, essentially, and how business needs to be successful in society in order to be restorative and regenerative.

There is two distinct paradigms. I think that what we'll see over the next 10 years is much more clamor around we're not going far enough, fast enough. We need to move away from this more evolutionary perspective of let's keep tweaking the model, making it better, more efficient to radically different models, which is the question you posed. I think that's, in the sense we're not going far enough, fast enough, we'll put an increasing spotlight on what the alternative is. I think we'll see a much more revolutionary perspective on what needs to happen to business. That's an interesting tension we have at the moment.

Detria: It sounds like this can be daunting and overwhelming for leaders and for organizations. Joe, talk to us a little bit about how can organizations actually do this, really, beyond their fringes, and is this scalable?

Joe: The point about the circular economy, as we see it, is that it's absolutely scalable or the solutions that we need right now to match the scale and urgency of the challenges that we face, they really need to be scalable. They need to be connected by this common vision of what a circular economy is. To reiterate, that's an economy where we go from take, make, waste to eliminate, circulate, regenerate.

Eliminate waste and pollution from the outset, circulate products and materials at their highest value for as long as possible, and regenerate [unintelligible] put back at least as much as you take out from natural systems and make sure they can continue to provide the things we need into the future. That is a vision that we believe works anywhere. The exact solutions that are relevant for Zimbabwe will be different for Tokyo, but we believe that those principles of eliminate, circulate, regenerate are applicable anywhere.

That's key to scaling solutions that are fit for their context. I think that's worth just stating up front. In terms of how companies and leaders can get started, it is a tricky one. I think Chris and I have often debated this because what we're seeing now, as Chris touched upon, is that a lot of organizations are basing their circular economy exploration out of some of the more traditional sustainability and efficiency departments, which is totally an understandable place to start.

It might be where there is some existing expertise and projects in something like recycling or using waste as a resource. What's challenging then is to really move upstream. The key here is we're not in a true circular economy, we're not talking about designing from waste, about just making use of waste, but we’re talking about designing out waste, so trying to make sure that waste no longer exists.

If we invest in and establish processes or practices that depend on waste, then, provocatively you could say that those models encourage us to be wasteful, that they require us not rethinking the system further upstream, not eliminating waste, but continuing to create it because we've simply legitimized it.

[music]

It is challenging to move upstream. I would say a great way to get started is to try and understand the wider system, and that extends beyond just one particular material or one particular product, but can be the system that surrounds an organization with customers with the natural environment where resources come from or where products might end up maybe with an ecosystem of third-party actors that might interact with your product or your service.

Trying to think about the way in which you operate as a business as part of an ecosystem, which can be regenerated and restored. You can support the health of that ecosystem in order to support the health of your business. That might sound a bit abstract. As Chris alluded to it, it's quite different to the way that a lot of businesses think at the moment. I think that systems thinking is really key to spotting the right opportunities and intervention points.

Detria: Joe, you mentioned earlier that there were some parts of that, that you and Chris might debate. It all sounds good to me. Chris, where are some of the areas where there's a healthy debate with what Joe just shared?

Chris: Obviously, no one can predict the future. There are different theories of change based on reasonable assumptions about how change happens. No one quite knows, of course, what's going to win out. The truth of it is probably we need to be working at multiple ends of this, we've already referenced this, upstream-downstream areas of innovation. Downstream of really fundamentally redesigning the model, but then moving upstream based on this momentum, easier business cases.

You could argue that that's a path based on building momentum, building movement, building scale. I think that may well be an approach that works. I suppose we've seen corporates who've been involved with circular economy innovation for maybe a decade scale the outer loops, if you like, or the more downstream efforts, some shift from products or services to better utilize those products and increase their circulation and reuse.

On the whole, they're still struggling to make that leap to being really regenerative businesses, and on the other end, as I said, the more upstream innovators tend to be really quite small and almost artisanal kinds of businesses. There's not necessarily the proof yet that those models can be really scaled, and there are some questioning whether we can and should expect to have economic growth in quite same levels.

I think if we're being truly custodians of a planet, but what we probably need to do is come at it from both ends and encourage organizations to, as Joe was alluding to, to have a journey in mind. I think all too often, the circular economy is almost like a downstream, a product strategy, if you like, rather than being core to how the business thinks about creating shared value and its perspective on growth.

We need businesses to start to adopt these ecosystem perspectives in the sense that — I mean, unfortunately, it is a bit more complex, but businesses that really have a vision for how they can create, drive systems of circulation, not necessarily dominate them, but grow these ecosystems of circulation, when it comes to materials in the economy, and probably have more blended business models, probably monetize, essentially creating abundance out there.

Abundance in the sense of increasing the exchanges of material flows, monetizing data around these flows, building new infrastructure, new kinds of partnerships, including, of course, pre-competitively so that we can use materials that are renewable and also from regenerative sources. You're trying to build this different kind of economy that essentially works a bit more like a circulation economy where the value is in the system health and the amount of flows we're able to generate and a value being created and shared.

Businesses need to build those visions. That's going to be exciting, and it's going to feel credible, it's going to feel like it could link to what they're good at, and give them an advantage in the future because of that. These visions have to be built. Then I think we can feel more relaxed about some of these earlier steps where there are strong business cases, for example, in the shift from products or services, but as long as their vision is in place, and as long as they have a roadmap and a purpose that says, ‘let's keep building towards this bigger pot of value that we can see on the horizon,’ then I think we're in an okay place. I think it's when businesses don't have that vision to keep growing to a more regenerative model. I think that's always the challenge.

Joe: I think just a word on that visions point, I think it's hugely important. As Chris said, we certainly agree that moving people, getting people thinking upstream is absolutely important. I think one of the key methods or approaches that can help with that is about setting a vision and aligning around a vision of the type of future you want to create. Just one short example that we talk about is around electric vehicles.

In some countries, especially a lifecycle assessment measuring the impact of the design and creation, the manufacturing of an electric vehicle would suggest that this actually might be a bad idea because the mining and the manufacturing of the batteries and charging it, sometimes not via renewable energy, means that — On a lifecycle assessment, it actually looks infavorable compared with a combustion engine.

Most people would agree that the vision, the future that we want to move towards is one of electrified, cleaner, safer, quieter mobility, but if you're just used to the data, the metrics, you might just end up trying to make the existing model more efficient. Sometimes the tools that we try to apply today to help people get started, so data and measurement, they're good for making decisions in today's system, but they don't help make the leaps to get to a new type of system, and that's where we're visions, I think, and compelling visions of what the future could look like and the steps you might actually have to take to get there, that's where those can play a really vital role.

Detria: Joe, you and Chris both have mentioned a couple of times now that there's this need for a shift from products to services in order to make this leap. Can you talk a little bit more about how to do that?

Joe: Yeah, well, just a word on why that might be important. If we think about the circular economy, we know that the way that we make and use things has a huge impact on resource use on the climate. Around 55% of emissions can be addressed by energy efficiency and renewable energy, but about 45% of emissions come from how we make and use things, how we produce food, and how we manage our land.

Those can't really be addressed just through renewables and efficiency. That part of the climate change challenge requires new business models, new ways to make things, new behaviors, and new relationships between people and stuff essentially. Moving from product to service is an example of that. When we think about a product like a laptop, let's say, because it's the closest thing in front of me, you might hear today that a company wants to get their laptops back and return them to their material level so they can make a new laptop.

Well, that's fine, but in effect, you're stripping away all of the value that you added to those materials, all their embodied energy and carbon that you added to turn those materials into a laptop in the first place, all the effort that went to get it in my home here, and then you use today. That's why we say these higher-value strategies in a circular economy are the ones that target the inner loops where you can really keep that item in circulation, you can preserve the integrity of the things that we use.

Where products to service comes in is if a company could, rather than just selling a product outright and waving goodbye to the customer and hoping maybe planning for them to come back in a few years' time to buy another one, what if instead they could sell the performance of the product, to sell the thing that the customer needs like computing power or light from a lighting service or mobility from a car or public transport service.

In that respect, the ownership of those assets would remain with the people who had produced them. That changes the incentive somewhat, so that manufacturer is now incentivized to create something that does a good job and last for as long as possible. Hopefully, it can be repaired and upgraded for longer because if they can do that, then they can keep that product in service and have an economic advantage because they don't have to make a new product every time they want to deliver value to a customer. That's why we talk about moving from product to service, and there are a bunch of ways to do that through things like rental and leasing, sharing models, digital services, or perhaps even looking at things like incentivized return of products, and so on.

Chris: Just to build on that, that's essentially increasing the utilization of what we have because we can bring more people to it, whether that's a service I provide to you as a customer because you have things that I can help you utilize. If I'm a recirculator or because you want access to something that you don't actually really need to own and I can provide that to you. That offers a very strong business case to companies to move into the circular economy. I think the challenge then is where do we go from there, because we have to go somewhere from there.

We can't just say, ‘Okay, great, well, we'll circulate this stuff for as much as we can, but after its useful life, we'll just dump it in the trash.’ You can see clearly there's a wider system we need to take account of. What are those materials in those products? Where have they come from? How are we supporting a system that is having a regenerative impact on the world, perhaps an agricultural system, the supplying raw materials for those products? We need to think of what are these material pathways that we want as a society, and how do we drive those as responsible producers.

That's when we need to start thinking in terms of, or where it really helps to start thinking in terms of ecosystems that can provide good quality renewable or regeneratively source inputs into our production processes, and then the materials onto a wider system of use. That, in the circular economy terms, is [unintelligible] talking about cascades of value, but clearly, those materials can go on even back to the anatomical level through being broken down and resupplied to the beginning of production processes.

That whole system we need to start designing and only will really the world be able to tackle things like climate change once we stand up, that more end to end vision of a regenerative economy because, unfortunately, if we're just growing the less bad where we're doing just parts of that system, the growth of a very less bad economy is the growth of a very bad economy in terms of our future prospects. That wider system picture, as we've been saying, is very important.

Detria: What I'm taking from this is that ultimately it sounds like we need to reshape value. Do both agree that we're actually invested enough in doing that? Organizations, leaders, communities, are we invested enough in actually reshaping this value?

Joe: It's a good point, and I think you're probably getting to the heart of the issue here. I think there are a few ways to cut that. I think one way would be to say, well, over what timescale are we thinking that we provide value or create value? We did a report a couple of years ago on the food system, and one of the headlines from that study was that the health costs from the way we produce food is about equal to the health costs that are caused by things like obesity and malnutrition. The reason behind that is that we produce food in a very linear way.

We use large amounts of fertilizer, pesticide, hormones, releases huge amounts of emissions. Even when someone tries to make a healthy choice for an individual food product, like a salad, the way that product is actually created is causing societal health problems that are detrimental to that individual. I share that example because I think it chimes nicely with the piece Chris was saying, which is are there healthy choices if the overall system is unhealthy? When you take that view, I hope — We're seeing more companies and business leaders saying, ‘Well, how can we actually contribute to creating a healthy system overall in which we do contribute to the health and wellbeing of our customers, of society, sometimes not directly through the product that we're offering, but through something bigger through the creation of a healthier ecosystem?’ In that respect, yes, I think it is about redefining value and redefining the role that brands play in society.

Chris: Yeah, I think that's the kind of, I don't want to say the scary thing, but it's at that level I think we have to think of really what our values are. Value, values, what is value, but it comes down to that. We can't just expect to sort the problem out with technical solutions which take their eye off how we've got into this mess in the first place. What did we stop caring about? It is bizarre that I think for many businesses, and this is just a paradigm problem, it's a mindset issue, I suppose, is the best way of putting it. Not many businesses would question whether the world is better off that they are there, and not many businesses would question that would think it perverse that rather than starting from a place because no one is starting from scratch, I guess, but rather than starting from a place where you say, ‘How can I have a regenerative impact?’ We've come to the point of society where we're generally accepting of the idea that, ‘Yes, well, this is a business, of course, it's going to have these, as you've come to understand, the negative impacts on the world.’

We've got to a place where we have some very perverse logic going on, I think. I think that's the challenge. We won't address that weird logic unless we address our values. Yeah, we have to think about what value is, and we're talking about all forms of value here. There's no point in having a system where we have a technical solution to material waste, but millions of people feeling disempowered economically — billions of people feeling disempowered economically — and just feeling that they're not stakeholders in a system that's good for them. The idea of a circulation economy, I think, is really key here. Circulation in many forms of value. The forest analogy is something that we often bring up, but it's really powerful because I think you can imagine a system where you have big successful organizations within a circular economy, as well as small ones. If you think of big trees in the forest, there are little trees as well. The big trees take up an awful lot of nutrients from the system but their contribution to the system is enormous. They're the ones sucking the renewable products or nutrients out of their solar energy systems, pumping that into the forest system, producing an enormous amount of materials for the forest to produce and reproduce the goods that they need from.

You can imagine these big contributors being highly successful as long as they're playing a healthy role in the overall ecosystem. Now we can take this at almost any given scale, whether it's in your village, in your industry, or at a global level. We all have to be contributing to the system health as actors within the system. That's a big shift in the way we think. In Western society, as business people, we tend to start off with ourselves at the center. We've been taught to dominate business goals, pat you on the back if you can devise ventures that extract maximum value. Value capture is the big thing, but actually, value exchange, value circulation, these become incredibly important qualities to circular economies and they are driven by— What may allow us to see them is when we start to disrupt our value system about what good looks like. That's why the forest analogy is very, very powerful because it plays with our intuitions a bit about how we can be successful.

Detria: Well, I think this goes back to all of this feeling somewhat daunting, and I think to use your word, Chris, scary. I do think it's scary. How do we encourage companies to get started? I know the incredible work, obviously, that's coming through and from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and certainly what we're doing at IDEO. How can you get a bit more granular for us? How do we encourage companies to get started and see their role in this?

Joe: Well, I think we've touched upon the importance of having a vision of the future that a company or a leader might want to build. I think we've also touched a bit on the dynamic between the product, the service, and the wider system, which I think does have a real role to play. When getting started with designing for a circular economy, companies will sometimes design a product that is durable and repairable and then they notice that it's not reaching its potential because the service or the business model wasn't in place to keep that product in use for longer.

That dynamic between a durable and repairable product, for example, a performance or a service-based business model is being explored by more people now, and then the wider system which enables or encourages perhaps companies to design products in a certain way or incentives for customers to purchase secondhand clothing or repaired electronic devices.

Those sorts of more systemic conditions are coming into play as well. Thinking through and innovating at those different levels is another important part of both getting started on that journey towards designing for a circular economy. I think another really important piece is surrounding the problem. We see this often with upstream innovations that the key actors need to collaborate.

This is something we hear all the time. It's a bit cliche now. We're seeing some real success with a project from our fashion work called The Jeans Redesign in which we brought together around 70 of those key actors from the jeans, the denim value chain to put them in a room together and asked them to agree the baseline, a standard for jeans to work in a more circular economy. That's related to things like traceability, to material selection, to design, dyeing, and so on.

That led to a project around jeans where many of the world's largest fashion companies have designed a line of jeans that are based on these standards. They all meet this baseline for circular jeans but above that baseline, they can compete in the same way on fashion, on price, on availability as they have in the past. I think those examples of surrounding the problem and identifying pre-competitive opportunities are also a good way to get started.

They seem quite hard, and often upstream innovations and interventions are quite hard, they might take a bit longer, but they are where we can have lasting impact. They're also where maybe some of the risk is minimized because it feels like the industry is moving forward together rather than one or two pioneers striking out on their own. That jeans redesign project is one where we're really seeing the benefit of brands collaborating together in quite an unprecedented way.

Chris: Just building on that thought of how companies get started, I totally agree with all that Joe was saying, and that's so important what he was talking about. Just a few other bits and pieces, I think that going back to the importance of the vision, they have to have a stretch vision, an ambitious vision for their future value-creating strategy as an organization that can be restorative and regenerative in the world.

That is starting to imagine themselves in business ecosystems that have that function. I think that's really about saying, ‘Okay, who are our customers going to be? How are we going to create value for them?’ Really those basic questions but in the context of using principles of circularity to create value for those customers.

That does mean going back to that, look for analogies like the forest where we can say, ‘How do we build these great circulating systems, these systems of real abundance by thinking about how do we make the core materials more interoperable? How do we open source? How do we build these networks that are able to very intelligently distribute materials to where there are markets? How do we think about these ingenious partnerships that we see in nature that can help us move products around and re-purpose them?’ and all of that stuff.

Forest is an endless useful analogy when thinking about those future visions, then having a way to position that as a customer back. A business value-driven, a customer value-driven strategy to the organization is incredibly important. Being able to use a design mindset to get to that vision, even when we're talking about senior, quite dry strategy folks and strategy processes. It has to be infused with a design-driven approach so that the organization can really build that future vision and make that story compelling, and then really feel their way to understanding where value lies and what the enablers are to get there by designing stuff and getting it out there. That's really the only way that organizations are finding that they can truly understand the path because of the complexity.

Detria: That's interesting. I want to go back to something that Joe was originally talking about in terms of denim when you were sharing that case around denim. Who do you find in the world as doing a great job with this? Are there industries, companies? Who do you think out there is really paving the way?

Joe: We've spoken a bit about the fashion industry and there are many great examples within the fashion industry with some of the larger brands like H&M and Zalando who are pretty aggressively exploring new ways of doing things such as renting products, rather than owning them, changing their material selection in their products, trying to make products that do last longer. As Chris outlined earlier, these are the big trees of our industries, our economies, these are the major players.

They can be a huge part of the solution. It will take time but they absolutely have the resources to direct towards these challenges. I think we're also seeing a lot of progress in packaging. Again, it's a hugely problematic wasteful system which is one of the reasons why the Ellen MacArthur Foundation got into that space to try and shift that system. We see a company like Tesco in the UK eliminating a shrink wrap around four-pack of tinned tomatoes.

That is a very subtle design tweak, a bit like the ones I mentioned at the start of the conversation, but it has eliminated billions of pieces of plastic. Then, fortunately, there are countless startups following as well with even more radical solutions, like Club Zero, another UK based startup who have actually been part of an IDEO and open IDEO challenge as well to reinvent the takeaway cup for coffee so that it can be part of a reuse system. Fashion and packaging, there's a huge amount of innovation going on. What I just want to give a call out to as well is the food industry, and this is one that excites me perhaps the most.

We've had a system in the past where we have bent nature to provide the food that we want with pretty catastrophic outcomes. Farmers and chefs and food designers are talking about how they can create food that is positive for nature. Focusing on biodiverse ingredients, and low-impact ingredients, upcycling byproducts. I love Toast Ale, a company also here in the UK that use leftover bread. Over 40% of bread is wasted in the UK and some of that can be collected and used to brew beer, which is a subject very close to my heart and, of course, regenerative sourcing of ingredients as well. Food is an area that's ripe for disruption and circular design for food is an area where we're seeing a lot of people getting involved and launching new experiments.

Detria: Chris and Joe, thank you so much. You have left the listeners with so much. Speaking of abundance, I would say that this definitely is an episode of abundance in terms of what we all can do and the charge that we leave for companies on how to get started. I'm curious what big question keeps you up at night?

Joe: Well, for me, it's ‘Can we move from extraction and consumption and how long will it take?’ I hope that we'll be able to look back in this moment where waste and pollution became synonymous with our economy. It's really accelerated in the past sort of 60 years. I hope that we'll be able to look back on that as a blip because we've moved to something that is regenerative and restorative and circular. That's the question that keeps me up at night.

Detria: What about you, Chris?

Chris: The truth is this question I mentioned earlier, ‘Are we going far enough fast enough,’ is something I think about a lot. As I said, sometimes the pace of change has to be comfortable if we want to drive it at scale, but also we need to be challenging ourselves on the depth. I often ask myself personally — I think we all have to ask ourselves personally — ‘What are we going to do next? How are we being the change?’ It's a really fine line when you're in your organization. We are all to an extent beholden to the system we're trying to change. That's a very uncomfortable process. I believe we will get there. Humanity has proved when we've needed to we have got together and figured really difficult things out. I think that I'm going to hold onto that hope and I believe that we will start to see, to Joe's point earlier, a different scale of collaboration around these issues over the next 10 years. I certainly hope so.

Detria: Well, thank you so much to both of you. Joe, for this charge for communities, for business leaders to have a new vision, and really your message resonated in terms of making sure that we establish a new relationship between people and stuff. That's great for our listeners to hear. Chris, the reminder for us to all be kind custodians of the planet. Thank you so much for being with IDEO today and answering our big question of how might we create the conditions for designing a radically different restorative and regenerative business model. Thank you, Joe and Chris.

Joe: Thank you.

Detria: The Big Question is brought to you by IDEO. To find out more about us and how we create positive impact through design, head to ideo.com and then make sure to search for The Big Question in Apple Podcast, Spotify, or anywhere else podcasts are found. Make sure to click subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. On behalf of the team here at IDEO, thanks for listening.

Host

Detria Williamson

CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, IDEO

Combine the outlook of a visionary with the rigor of a high-performing athlete and you’ll begin to get a sense of IDEO CMO Detria Williamson. She has spent more than 20 years as an innovative brand experience marketer who gives companies a brave push forward, bringing the discipline and mindset needed to create new brand ecosystems while building on the resonance and value the brand already has to its audiences.