Circulate on Fridays time! Read on to find out what the Circulate team have been reading, writing and watching this week. 

SAP find gigatons of savings in digital business

SAP digital / Photo credit: Leonid Yaitskiy via / CC BY-NC-SA
Bringing intelligence to the grid could conserve conventional energy sources and increase renewable uptake. Photo credit: Leonid Yaitskiy via / CC BY-NC-SA

As we start to get to grips with the potential of digital technologies like artificial intelligence and the internet of things, we can expect research into the more specific benefits when new tools and techniques are applied to today’s socio-economic challenges. Technology provider SAP have investigated have harnessed their software and analytics expertise to estimate the impact digital business could make upon six energy-intensive and emission-producing industries.

Looking at the areas of utilities, agriculture and food production, transport and logistics, construction, manufacturing, and retail and consumer production, SAP found that smart grid tech, power plant automation, ridesharing, use of excess vehicle capacity for logistics, sharing of manufacturing inventory and precision agriculture could save US$33 trillion worth of resources, as well as 7.6 gigatons of carbon emissions by 2030. That’s no chickenfeed, and would make a substantial dent in emissions targets. 

The circular economy in low and middle income countries

As Ken Webster noted recently, “in OECD countries a circular economy seems just common sense”. But what about in low and middle income countries? It’s a question that’s quickly rising up the agenda, and development agency Tearfund added more detail to the picture via a short report circulated this week. Virtuous Circle: how the circular economy can create jobs and save lives in low and middle-income countries includes case studies from Brazil, Kenya, Ghana and India to demonstrate how the circular economy could be as promising a prospect for these markets as for Europe, as found in reports from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey.

“the circular economy holds out the promise of an alternative growth model that reduces the tension between lifting people out of poverty and protecting the planet, dramatically increasing the scope for meeting the SDGs.”

The ‘saving lives’ aspect of the Tearfund research adds a new dimension to the discussion around the circular economy, with report authors emphasising how new practices, policies and business models could improve working conditions and reduce dangerous pollution. The report is definitely worth reading for the ten policy recommendations and a set of case studies found outside of the OECD bubble.

Fortune favours the brave

Sometimes it feels like startups are where all the the action is. It’s easy to forget that if the big businesses of today can change the way they operate, it could have a significant impact in the transition towards a circular economy. Fortune has released two lists recently that highlight some of the big players that are ‘taking on society’s biggest problems’. In selecting 50 companies for the ‘Change the World’ list, Fortune looked for companies that have an annual revenue of $1 billion or more, and have “had a positive social impact through activities that are part of their core business strategy”. A number of businesses made the list for activities related to their commitment to the circular economy, such as Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Partners Nike and Unilever. A similar ‘on the cusp’ list of companies to watch picked out H&M for the bold ambition of “100% circularity” for clothing, as well as innovative plastics recycler Terracycle.

Building a new economic model

A video to close out this week’s Circulate on Fridays. The Institute for New Economic Thinking interview Eric Weinstein, Managing Director of Thiel Capital. This short interview is packed with provocative questions including whether market capitalism was an ‘accident’ of the 20th Century, how Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are changing the economy without permission, and what Kung Fu Panda can teach us about education for a changing world.

We have an ailing, self-organised economy that needs more direction. We can’t say what the new model is because we haven’t built it.

– Eric Weinstein


Lead image: Photo credit: <a href=””>Thomas Hawk</a> via <a href=””></a> / <a href=””>CC BY-NC</a>

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