Takeaways from the 4th Circular Change Conference


The fourth edition of the international Circular Change Conference, taking place in Maribor, May 16 and 17 2019 was at the same time a celebration of successes and best practices, a meeting of the global “circular community”, and a platform that sent a strong and serious message to change-makers across Europe that more needs to be done to accelerate the change from linear to circular.

Over 400 participants from over 20 countries, 50 speakers and over 25 of our partners and co-organisers have shown that there is real change happening “on the ground”. Slovenia is firmly among the leaders of the circular transition in Europe. It has been made clear – we do need each other in order to make sustainable, circular transition happen. We need an inter-generational agreement, we need radical collaboration, we need to listen to each other - and even more important - hear each other.

 Mr. Marjan Šarec, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia and the honorary sponsor of the conference emphasized in his speech: circular economy is certainly one of the answers to the complex challenges of our time.  Although we are thinking globally, change must begin with each one of us, at our homes and places of work.

A sustainable, circular economy is the only way forward. That is why we have invited the representatives of the Youth for Climate Justice Slovenia to open our two-day circular journey. Their message is clear - there is no Planet B and our decisions are shaping the future of our civilisation, of our planet. Although we pointed to many positive developments, we should not forget the very serious truth: the circular economy is far from being a reality and true impact on the global scale is yet to happen. The state of our environment keeps deteriorating.

The only true global agreement for sustainable development are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Achieving them means addressing our needs as humans and they should be integrated to the very heart of our decision-making, stressed the Chair of Circular Change’s Honorary Council Dr. Janez Potočnik.

The EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc sent an upbeat message with her keynote: the upcoming eco-civilisation is the only possible one: but solving the divide between man’s economic endeavours and the impact he has on the environment will result in a happier, freer and more spiritual society.

Businesses are taking sustainability seriously and are tying their business goals to SDGs. Although no one will deny that there is much work to be done and that there will be missteps along the way, the best practices presented by partners Laško Union Brewery, Butan plin, Skaza, Aquafil, Luna TBWA, Nomago and many others proved that Slovenian companies are fast becoming part of the global circular transition. Creativity is the driving force of change – circular design is the first step when reshaping linear business models into circular ones.

A new narrative is needed – stories we can identify with, practices we can implement, circular solutions that are appealing and trendy. Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee was clear: The European Union must continue leading in facilitating the exchange of knowledge, ideas and stories.

Only the engagement of all stakeholders leads to change. Circular economy platforms and organisations can play a key role in leveraging collaboration and engagement. Among them is Circular Change, who is enabling collaboration on the national and international level. One of the many initiatives we take part in is the Circular Hotspot Network, introduced by our Dutch colleagues during their EU presidency. A lot can be learned from the Netherlands, that’s we put that country in the focus and invited several Dutch entrepreneurs as well as our dear friends H.E. Bart Twaalfhoven and Guido Braam to present the Dutch way of collaboration.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Our collaboration with the Doshisha University in Kyoto brought prof. Tadashi Yagi to Slovenia, thus opening yet another opportunity for the exchange of knowledge and ideas.

The future is now. We need to begin experimenting with circular solutions in our own companies and homes. However, we must think globally and benefit from a “polyphony of values”. This was the final message of the panel, titled Circular Think Tank: Thinking the Future and with it we are concluding this short report that captures only a small part of the variety of speakers and topics that were addressed.

The conference has left us energized, inspired and ready to continue doing what we love. We thank all participants, partners, co-organisers and speakers who have co-created this wonderful event.

Too see and hear the 4th Circular Change Conference visit the gallery (day 1, day 2 ) and watch the official video of the conference.

A special thank you goes to Mireille van Bremen, whose graphic recordings have perfectly captured the spirit and key messages of the conference. Visit her website and marvel at her work, created during the 4th Circular Change Conference:

Circular Change