Skip to main content

We collaborate

In Conversation with Katja Hansen, Senior C2C and CE expert, environmental engineer

We ask Circular Economy Innovators and Specialists to share their thoughts and inspirations, and dig a little deeper into their own personal journey of creating and capturing value in a circular economy.

Was there a lightbulb moment that inspired you to work within the field of the Circular Economy?

It was when Ellen MacArthur and her core startup team came to Hamburg for a one week training in the Cradle to Cradle Design framework while they were setting up the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. I was one of the lead trainers as I’d been developing and applying C2C for years. In that training we all realized that C2C would be powering the Circular Economy and we had many practical cases and learnings to support it.Those cases ended up being the first practical examples cited by EMF for the CE and I’m excited to see most of those cases still running today. The lightbulb is still shining!

What has surprised you most about implementing the circular economy within your organisation/other businesses?

How companies know a lot about their products, materials and supply chains but very little about what’s in them.…And how much innovation and creativity is freed when you ask them to design something beneficial instead of less bad. The other thing that surprised us is that circularity is 10 percent technology and 90 percent psychology. People's perception of what circularity is and their role in it are what counts The technology and investment come after that.

What do you wish other people knew about the Circular Economy?

That the Circular Economy is REGENERATIVE & RESTORATIVE BY DESIGN. Regenerating and restoring is different from reducing, reusing and recycling. You start at the beginning by designing products that contribute to regenerating or restoring. The guidance for that is the three Cradle to Cradle design principles: Design everything to be a resource for something else, use renewable energy, and celebrate biological, social and conceptual diversity. Those are the foundations for a restorative, climate-resilient economy.

Tell me about someone who has influenced you on your CE journey.

Over so many decades, I’ve learned from the best and it’s quite a list... but if I had to pick one person it’d be Douglas Mulhall who has an uncanny ability to question status quo and make concepts understandable and applicable.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming more circular?

That there are more than 114 definitions already of the Circular Economy so it’s really important to be clear what you want to achieve. Remember, only a system that’s beneficial and healthy for people and the environment as well as economically sound, can be a regenerative & restorative system!

What do you think will happen over the next five years in terms of circularity in your specific industry?

We’re going to see a split between those who go for true circularity because they see the business and social value, and those who continue greenwashing because they don’t. Investors are starting to vote with their money, and for that they demand guidance so I’m working on the tools. Combined with a regenerative mindset, those tools will accelerate a true paradigm change in the next 5 years.. The pandemic demonstrated if we want to think globally, act locally to implement changes this is possible.

CE in Business with Anett Kiss, Responsible Procurement Manager at InterContinental Hotels Group

We ask Circular Economy implementers to share their experience of working with the University, either as a participant on one of our executive education offerings, or as a project collaborator and ask them to describe both the challenges and successes they have encountered on the way, as well as plans for the future.

What impact did the Masterclass have on you from a personal/professional perspective?

Attending the Masterclass was a fantastic opportunity to step back from my day-to-day duties and learn more about how other companies address circularity. The course reminded me to always think about the ‘bigger picture’ which is easy to lose sight of when working for the same company for many years. The course helped me to see challenges from a different perspective and approach them with a changed mindset.

What are the main successes and challenges you have faced while implementing the changes to become more circular?

One of the main challenges for IHG is the scalability of a circular solution and with 5,000+ hotels globally, brand consistency for our guest is vital. To overcome this, we closely work with suppliers through piloting solutions and often committing to a new product or service with one of our brands first. We then gradually introduce the concept to more hotels in collaboration with the supplier. This allows to progressively build trust with suppliers and create symbiotic partnerships.

Have you collaborated with the University on any other projects/programmes?

Yes, for the second year now we have been participating in the Exeter MBA Consultancy Projects programme through which students apply their innovative business thinking to a real-life business challenge IHG is facing. In both years, the busines challenges were relevant to circular economy.

Following your experience on the Masterclass/MBA Projects/Corporate Challenge, what are the next steps for you/your business in its CE journey?

Looking ahead, we would like to strengthen our partnerships with key suppliers and jointly design innovative circular solutions that will be beneficial to many more. Being a consumer business comes with the responsibility of challenging the norm, challenging our business partners and enabling solutions.