The Eagle Has Landed: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Launches U.S. Chapter of CE100

By Averill Brewer

A girl wanders into a house after discovering that no one is home — the owners of the home, three bears, are off walking in the woods while their porridge cools. This well-known fairytale makes use of the rule of three: Goldilocks discovers very quickly that the third time’s a charm. It is reasonable to assume that we have entered this Goldilocks’ principle of sustainable development: We have finally chosen the path that is just right.

First, there was more or less William McDonough and Cradle to Cradle; then there was LEED and BREEAM. And now we have entered the golden era, attributed to Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s ecology: the circular economy, which has become the gold standard because it has truly given real thought to the values and the time and money components to which all businesses are slaves. That being said, last week the eagle officially landed in the United States: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the U.S. chapter of its Circular Economy 100 program (CE100) at an inaugural workshop in San Francisco.

For the past three years, CE100 has experienced large success internationally by creating a network of business leaders, academics, innovators, policy makers and city authorities with a shared objective of developing and implementing circular economy opportunities. Global partners include: Unilever, Google, Cisco, IBM and many others. Now, the program aims to specifically target U.S. markets. CE100 was established to “enable organizations to develop new opportunities and realize their circular economy ambitions faster,” the Ellen MacArthur Foundation stated in a recent press release.

Perhaps if CE100 had a theme song, it might be Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” due to the program’s endeavor to bring together newly innovative circular businesses, as well as older, established corporations, in order to create a platform for collective learning and sharing from one another. For example, the member organizations of CE100 are provided with “unique collaboration, capacity building, networking and research opportunities, to help them achieve their circular economy ambitions more quickly.” With core principles like collaboration, networking and collective thinking, CE100 exemplifies through its success thus far that the best way for an array of stakeholders (including but not limited to business, governments, academics) to enrich themselves and move forward in a sustainable way is by engaging in this type of platform.

SunPower, Tarkett and Walmart became the latest corporate members of CE100 U.S., which acknowledges to the public that they are open to transitioning away from today’s linear ‘take, make, dispose’ business model, and instead want to contribute to a circular economy.

The circular economy offers businesses willing to capture new value from existing operations and resources, for example, by redesigning products and business models, building new relationships with customers, harnessing technology to increase utilization of assets, and switching to renewable energy.

Laura Phillips, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart, stated: “Walmart is pleased to joining Circular Economy 100 USA to share our learning and learn more from other companies so that we can better engage suppliers and customers in these practices.”

Another company to note at the CE100 U.S.

launch is Noble Environmental Technologies. As a CE100 International member and featured innovative technology partner, Noble Environmental Technologies of San Diego offers corporations and governments an immediate solution to the waste problem with ECOR, which was developed in partnership with the USDA. Noble Environmental Technologies believes ECOR is the future of green building, sustainable design and advanced recycling systems because its products and building materials consist of a cellulose fiber that is created from a wide range of waste materials — anything from old cardboard, coffee grinds, office paper to fabrics, textiles and hemp. In addition, ECOR is Cradle to Cradle certified, and Circulate reports that the manufacturing process “is a clean method that produces virtually no waste, uses no chemicals, adhesive or additives, and creates materials that are made from 100 percent recycled content.” The materials are also biodegradable and can be broken down and re-purposed into other products with a new life.

Noble’s technology, ECOR, is the epitome of circular, closed-loop design — proof that we can do better than the status quo when we try and don’t opt for the easy way out — that it is possible to foresee a future revolutionized by sustainable, circular design, consumption, and business.

“The fact is that we have the technology today that enables us to economically and sustainably convert literally any waste into a cellulose based fiber and upcycle it,” Robert Noble, founder and CEO of Noble Technolgoies told Circulate. The thing is: In order to actually make a change and be a true contributor to the circular economy, you must think about how to create products that continue to possess value, products that can continuously be upcyled into better products or else biodegrade safely into the soil. ECOR does that entirely.

You can read more about the concept of ECOR here.

“Now circular economics is forcing a different perspective. It’s saying, ‘If you don’t do this, then good luck … and if you do this [engage in circular economics], then you can make a whole bunch of money in the bottom line of your financials,” Jay Potter, director of Noble Environmental Technologies, explained.

Attendees at the CE100 U.S. workshop included representatives from corporations, cities and airports. Potter believes this major turnout shows there is an unmet need, and the representatives sent to the CE100 U.S. launch are the decision-makers of their movement within their own operations.

“What I found so interesting at the launch was the turnout of attendees from these corporations, airports, cities; they were not there to talk. They were there saying, ‘We’re ready to do something,’ and that’s music to my ears.”

Image courtesy of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation 

Averill Brewer is a writer covering the circular economy. She hopes to make it digestible for all. You can email her at averill.brewer@gmail.com.