We WINGers are very excited to announce the launch of a project we’ve been working on over the past year. Our film series for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has gone live, educating and inspiring audiences with businesses that are designing out waste.

To celebrate the release, we are looking into The Circular Economy and asking whether a mindset based on this could help revive much-needed brand trust?

EMF works with businesses, such as H&M, to build a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design - the Circular Economy. We have been working with the Foundation since 2009 on various projects but recently we were lucky enough to work on this amazing film series.

The EMF is, quite literally, helping companies to become a force for good - or to put it in their terms, to become more circular.

The Mindset

There is a decline in the trust of brands and advertising. 89% of millennials trust recommendations from friends and family more than claims by brands. This news comes as no surprise when you consider that most of them have grown up in a world where politicians and leaders are fire-hosing falsehoods and using alternative facts to blur reality, and where so-called authentic influencers are paid to promote products. Only this month, the Advertising Association launched a report titled 'Arresting The Decline Of Public Trust In UK Advertising', with the President of the Association himself claiming it is 'trust or bust' for the ad industry. Statistics and statements like these are truly chilling. Without trust, we lose the influence and power to change behaviour for the better. The world of advertising can be a dark and glacial place at times and having the hope that we can advocate a force for good is something that keeps most of us going. We absolutely can't risk losing that.

A brand message without trust is just noise and of course, industries will need to react. With 61% of millennials expressing concern about the state of the world, companies and brands need to be more conscious of how their organisations are being run. Everything from equality and diversity to environmental impact is being scrutinized ever more closely. It's no longer good enough to preach a force for good; brands have to be the force for good, inside and out.

We've already seen examples of brands making this shift. In 2018 Iceland became the first major UK supermarket to pledge to remove palm oil from all its own-brand foods, in a bid to halt the ongoing destruction of tropical rainforests in south-east Asia. You've probably heard of or seen Rang-tan's Story that came out at Christmas last year. The campaign wasn't without controversy as we discussed in our February WINGperspective - BUT Iceland has reformulated or launched 450 products that exclude palm oil and that's a real-world change.

For brands to commit to social causes, they need to reallocate resources and have a clear purpose that links to the overall business; making any meaningful switch certainly isn't easy. This is where the Ellen MacArthur Foundation can come in.

A Force For Good

Admittedly, the words 'Circular Economy' make most people think of grey board rooms, data graphs, and financial meetings, but it's actually a super exciting movement. One that is relevant to all industries, and is helping organisations and brands to be more environmentally conscious but with a strong economic focus. Brands might not know it yet, but partnerships like these could help bring some good old-fashioned brand trust back to the commercial world.

The Definition

So what is a Circular Economy? In Ellen MacArthur's words herself, it is...

"...looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model. A circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles — designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems."

We know, that's quite a mouthful, so let's attempt to 'top line' what a Circular Economy is in layman's terms, with our visual WINGer brain (which, to be fair, is like trying to 'top line' science but here goes). Think of a rainforest. It's a perfect ecosystem of processes and production lines, with trees, plants, nutrients, resources and materials all feeding and looping into one another. There is no waste or value lost; there's a life-cycle, where materials are broken down and reused. Now imagine applying those same principles to products, production lines, businesses, organisations, cities and the economy. Imagine they all acted like an environmentally-conscious ecosystem with lots of intertwined ecosystems; where nothing is wasted, where production is thriving, and value is found in waste. Once you see it, it seems so obvious and necessary - yet as a society, we have a long way to go before we can even consider comparing the structure of any present-day economy to that of a rainforest.


So why are we telling you about the Circular Economy and how might brand partnerships with foundations like EMF help the advertising industry? It's of paramount importance that brands acknowledge the positive economic implications of being good, not just so that we can all sleep better at night but because it makes absolute business sense to ensure a robust and prosperous future for the commercial and advertising industry. Only once brands take this shift can we hope to build a more sustainable and prosperous future and only then can brands hope to regain the trust of their audiences.

A Circular Economy mindset doesn't abstain; it advances. It doesn't stop production; it encourages it. And crucially it doesn't affect profit; it builds on it. It creates a vibrant, exciting and healthy future where businesses can thrive and create positive real-world changes. If more brands and organisations partnered with foundations like EMF or even took a leaf out of the Circular Economy book, then we just might create a more sustainable future; a future where people can trust in brands again.

Meet the people rethinking ownership
In the first episode of our meet the redesigners film series, which showcases the circular economy in action, we meet the people behind modular headphones that you subscribe to, rather than buy, a platform for renting and sharing clothes, and find out more about H&M's latest work on new business models.

Meet the people designing out waste
Designing fibres so that products like carpets can be 100% recyclable and a replacement for plastic packaging made from seaweed. Watch the part two of our meet the redesigners film series, which showcases the circular economy in action.

Meet the people balancing nature and business
Mimicking nature's cycles on a buffalo farm, growing leafy greens and other plants under London's tube lines, and more from the team at Ooho. Watch the third part of our meet the redesigners film series, which showcases the circular economy in action.

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