Three Keys for a Successful Transition to the Circular Economy

How do we move the circular economy from theory to practice? Institute Senior Technical Manager Dr. Justin Bours joined a multidisciplinary panel at Harvard University’s inaugural Circular Economy Symposium last week to discuss how applying Cradle to Cradle principles to materials and systems design can bridge the circularity gap.

What will it take to move us forward? Here is Justin's take on three critical requirements for moving the circular economy from idea to action:

1. Cross-sector collaboration. A successful transition to the circular economy needs more than industry engagement. It also requires the collaboration and cooperation of policymakers, financial institutions and research practitioners. Science-based, multi-stakeholder, cross-industry frameworks like Cradle to Cradle Certified™ can provide a platform for facilitating this kind of connection and collaboration.

2. Solutions innovation. When it comes to the circular economy, one size does not fit all.  While universally accepted standards for safe and circular product design can serve as a shared foundation for responsible production and consumption, bridging the end-to-end circularity gap requires the innovation of solutions that tackle both industry and geographically based challenges at scale. For instance, business models and systems for materials cycling look different in sparsely populated, low-infrastructure regions versus. highly populated, high-infrastructure regions. To be successful, we need to solve for circularity locally and globally. 

3. The right words. From the way we talk about what the circular economy is (and does) to how we define a circular product, aligning definitions and language of circularity across industries, sectors, and geographies will help us unlock even greater collaboration, connection, and innovation -- bringing us back full circle.


Justin Bours is a green chemist and materials/polymer scientist that has consistently leveraged his knowledge of chemical reactivity and material life cycles toward eliminating chemical risks. As Senior Technical Manager for the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, Justin contributes to the auditing of product assessments and leads technical projects to enhance the certification program and promote sustainable product manufacture and design.