Ep 02: Elisabeth Graf on the Circular Economy
How design is central to the success of the Circular Economy.
In this episode we learn about the Circular Economy with Elisabeth Graf, a service designer specialising in climate adaptation. We explore how design is central to circular success, and the opportunity circular presents for businesses looking to adapt and thrive under the consequences of climate change.
Tom Prior: 0:00Welcome to Designers in Business. I'm Tom Prior, curator of Designers in Business and host of the Designers in Business interview series. My guest for this episode is Elizabeth Graf. Elizabeth is an independent service design consultant specialising in climate adaptation. She is also founder of impact makers, a collective of experts helping organisations prepare, manage, and recover from disasters and climate change. In this interview, we unpack the circular economy. We'll learn how design is central to circular success, and discuss the opportunity circular presents for businesses looking to adapt and thrive under the consequences of climate change. We shine a light on some big name brands already starting their circlular journey, and explore Elisabeth's practical approach to circular design, uncovering how it's reassuringly similar to our current design thinking approach. Welcome, Lilli, to Designers in Business. It's fantastic to have you here.Elisabeth Graf: 1:06
Thank you for having me!
Tom Prior: 1:08
Probably best off that we start with the big question that people probably have and may not know about the circular economy. But, what is it?
Elisabeth Graf: 1:16
Yes, so let's start with maybe the current economy that we have and we call the current economy a linear economy and in a linear economy, we have this take, make, consume, dispose model, in which we actually rely on a lot of cheap and easily accessible materials and energy, and that we use to create products that we then sell to customers, the customer use those products and then they basically dispose of them. So it becomes waste, and that waste is design gone wrong. So, waste can actually be a resource for something else in a circular model, what we actually are trying to do is we are trying to go from this line to a circle. So we are bending it and we are looking at how can we actually capture value throughout in the process and keep as much as value in that loop. What we are trying to do with the circular business model or regenerative model is how can we create environmental, economic and community value by maximising the reuse of these finite resources and extending that value as much as possible. Maybe I want to bring this to life by just an example from my childhood. So I grew up on this isolated farm in the Italian Alps. And we had on our farm, we would have of course, some chickens and no supermarket close by. So, instead of buying things, we would just like go to the garden - that would be our shopping mall - and get some vegetables and fruit, something else. And whatever was leftover from the kitchen would go to the chickens and the chickens could use that to eat. And then of course, in return they made it made us some eggs and also some chicken poop. And the eggs we could eat again. And the chicken poop, that actually would go again in the garden to fertilise so to say the next, you know, the fruits and vegetable for the next year. And there are even more loops because we would even dry the egg shells. And then give them to the chickens again so that the egg shell stays hard. It's a trick that every chicken farmer does. But in nature, we actually have a lot of regenerative ecosystems. So where the waste of one thing becomes the resource for another. And somehow, I don't know why. But we humans have forgotten that bit. And so we actually didn't take maybe as much biology classes or didn't grow up on a farm. And so when we come to the world and design new products and services, we don't have taken inspiration from nature, but we actually just took inspiration, maybe from the economic model of infinite growth. So we now need to relearn how to design products by really looking at how nature creates regenerative ecosystems, and what can we copy from that?
Tom Prior: 4:32
Those that have put the effort into kind of defining Circular, great organisations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation - and you've mentioned some others - have put together these kind of key core principles and aims of Circular. Would you mind kind of sharing with us what kind of broadly what those are?
Elisabeth Graf: 4:51
Yeah. So I think then, let's start with the goal of the Circular Economy or Circular businesses and models. So it's really how can we design out waste and pollution. So what we want to create is an opportunity to recover, generate and maximise the value within not just the production of the product or the service, but also the consumption and the end. So, what we are trying to achieve is actually how can we extend the product life? How can we reuse it? How could we potentially remanufacture it or up or down cycle it or in the end recycle. And the Ellen MacArthur Foundation created this very famous butterfly diagram that just presents you what are the different types of loops that you could have. There are different dimensions. The closest loop is really about now extending the product's life, or the part around reuse and, and so what you're actually aiming for, and what you should always do is like one of the principle is designed for the inner loops, the smaller groups - really how you can extend it, because there you capture more value compared to if you're going to say, oh, yeah, I'm going to buy, I don't know, this shirt, I'm going to wear it three times. And I'm going to recycle instead of just extending life, the lifetime and value. Sometimes it's a bit tricky, because for business models with the incentive structure that we currently hav, there are not that many businesses that are really designing products for durability. There are few, and they make that their main differentiator. But sometimes it's a bit harder. So I can imagine some of the companies just try and say, oh, let's recycle. But that's not the best way of a circular business model. And then I think the other aspect, or one key principle is it should be really restorative and regenerative by design. So how do you maintain now, then value the use of those products and components at all times and think of it. So that's kind of the key element that we want to achieve. And so what you need to do is really like look at the entire value chain, and understand where you as a business, are producing waste and pollution, so that you can identify where are exactly the biggest opportunities for you to intervene.
Tom Prior: 7:31
Maybe tell us a little bit about what you've been doing in this space. I know that you're starting to specialise your consultancy in this area. So maybe you could give us a little overview of kind of what you offer in this space. And then we can kind of get into some of the big questions around what what Circular is?
Elisabeth Graf: 7:47
Sure. So as a service designer working in different consultancies, I've been working on creating new services or even like improving existing services for a while. And, of course, there is a question, how can we make them better not just for the planet and people? And so it becomes a big question for all of us of kind of how can we redesign our practice? And how can we actually deliver more value and create a world that is actually a bit better? And for that, I started to explore the space. So what does it mean to design for planet and people? And so the Triple Bottom Line, as they would say, in business terms, and I see, we speak a lot about the problem of climate crisis and the impact it has, and potentially the consequences, and also the solutions? And for me, the big question was like, how do you get there? How do you design a service or digital product that is actually sustainable? And so Circular Economy and Circular business model is a part of that. And I was particularly interested in it, because I think it's not enough to improve an existing product or service, think about, yeah, we have cars, and we go into a model of like, electric vehicles, but you still substitute with a car, you still have traffic jam, you still you might not pollute as much, but you still need a lot of resources to build that car. And so thinking about even like better ways, and different economic models that can be truly regenerative. And is a question that I asked myself. And so I started exploring with different companies, what that means, how can they start their journey to sustainability? What questions do you need to ask and what are the first steps and how, how can you explore it in a design and iterative way? Because I think when we hear sometimes about the Circular business models or Circular models, we think there needs to be one model, but actually there can be many, and so as a designer, our job is to actually facilitate that conversation, bring people together and help them understand what could be possible, and what they need to make that possible.
Tom Prior: 10:10
Why do you think that right now, designers becoming more familiar with Circular and the processes and what we're going to run through today is so important? Why is it so urgent that we become upskilled in this world?
Elisabeth Graf: 10:25
First of all, I think that the current the linear model, the fact that we extract so much resources and recreate pollution and waste is not working, because we are going beyond our planetary boundaries. And which means, if we continue like this, we need more than one planet, and we don't have more than one planet, and we can't just go to the supermarket and buy one. And so there is no, there can't be business on an inhabitable planet. So that's the first most important reason why we need to move in that perspective. And then there are several benefits for businesses but as well as society to move into a more Circular business models and regenerative businesses. So one of the aspects for us as designers if you think we always have the customer or the user have heart and you can build stronger customer relationships, if you also think about how can I take this back? How can I keep it longer in use? How can I help people to repair their product or items, or how can I recollect, so you stay in contact with your customers for much longer, because the contact doesn't end when the product gets off the shelf. Actually, it stays and you want to retain that contact. And also, customer behaviours are changing, we say that we see that many more people want to buy more sustainable products or want to use more sustainable products, either digital or like physical. Of course, there's still this Value Action Gap in which we have this intention, but then we don't do and follow up. But I I believe that with the evolution of sustainable products and services, we actually crack some of the difficult aspects. As an example, Patagonia has proven that being a company that really puts the planet at the heart, makes sense also financially, and from a profit perspective. And Patagonia is really looking at how can I help you buy less, and keep your jacket longer, or repair it or even provide, you know, a second chance a second chance or like sell your pre loved items to somebody else. Another reason are cost savings because raw materials are getting scarcer. And we can see it also during the pandemic or lately. We have raw materials and the prices are going through the roof. So if you as a company are able to actually recycle part of that material, you've reduced the resource dependency that you have from your supply chain. And the last reason is regulation. So this week, actually, the European Commission put out two new proposals that are part of the Green New Deal. And it's really about giving the consumers the right to repair and reuse things. And so what the European Commission has been working on is actually making this the new default, like Circular business models should be the default in the future. And it's great when we see that also from not just bottom up, but also top down. And your regulations will help businesses make this shift. And then there is also studies that show that with the circular business models or a circular economy will create a lot of new jobs because we need highly skilled workforce, a highly skilled workforce that is able to repair items and create new opportunities that have a benefit for businesses and people.
Tom Prior: 14:05
As a designer who's been working in Circular for a while and has more of a specialism than probably most of us when it comes to this, where do you see the biggest opportunity for designers in Circular?
Elisabeth Graf: 14:19
I think generally as designers, I would even take a step back because I think it's not just circular circular is one way I think what we want to understand as designers and like the conversation that we want to have with companies or our clients is where where do you want to like how do you want your company to become sustainable? And where do you start? That's a bit now the big question that companies are asking yourself and so sometimes you can think about incremental innovation. So how can you improve products and services? Or how if you look at more radical innovation or like how can you create new products and services, and so if so you also want to understand where you operate. And then there is another dimension that it's really like about not just the products and services for the consumer and like market facing, but also how the business operates. Like, what are the processes and the business models? So how can we actually internally increase the capacity for sustainable innovation and like really, operate more sustainably? If you think about the example that I gave that Google like, how can we reduce waste within the office? Or how can we operate our office more sustainably? And then also, I think the opportunity is really about how can we totally redesign our business model and your organisation to become a more sustainable company? And that could be like more radical in the change? And I think we need to understand first, out of no, those kinds of opportunities, which ones is the company most excited about? Where do they want to move? And then based on once we understood this is it just about improving something existing? Or actually, do we have the mandate to completely redesign a new product and service offering, then I think we can understand what could be our role in making that happen. And as designers, I think the first step that we should take is getting familiar with what it means and what it could be. What the Circular Economy is. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation offers a lot of great resources as well as courses. There is also TU Delft that has some massive online courses around the Circular Economy, some may be more specific for people who are really industrial designers and design products. But I think, also, if you're a service designer, or working on digital products, you have the opportunity, and you should try to understand what it actually means to design more sustainably. Because I think, apart from redesigning, maybe no collection processes or journeys, and really thinking about the end of life of your digital product and service, I think we also should consider and understand that whenever we design a digital product that consumes energy, and to create that energy, we need resources. And so I think that's a whole other chapter. And I have also some friends that are starting to create, how to create sustainable digital products course to understand what it means because the way of how even we design websites could change. Organic Basics, which is this brand that sells underwear, they actually created a low impact website. So on that low impact website, it's a website that actually I think it's not available in the night because it's run on solar energy. Sometimes at least when I go sometimes it didn't work. And what you need to do is before you even can see a photo, you just see like an illustration of maybe you know, the underwear, and then you need to click on it, and then it loads. So you have a more mindful interaction with what you see and how energy is used even on that website. That is not necessarily Circular. But I think it's still a way of how we design more in a sustainable way and how we use less resources and pollute less. So I think that is also for us a big question of what what would even like how could you redesign a customer journey? Or like, how could you redesign user flow, if you think of screens to make it more sustainable? And to use less energy? I think those are all interesting questions that we're starting to ask ourselves as designer.
Tom Prior: 18:59
I think it's a fascinating kind of mindset shift. And even to start off with a thought experiment that designers can start playing with internally, maybe start with to get comfortable with this to your point, yeah, how can we made this process? Let's take this, we think this is a great end to end journey we've designed how to make it better for the planet, not just the people. We've been very people centred for a while. But that does negate some of these, these other factors when it comes to vision and maybe this feeling achievable, feeling like something that isn't this kind of moonshot that businesses can't get to, or it's something that other you know, Circular first businesses do is seeing examples of other businesses that have maybe pivoted in some way or introduced us to some level of Circular thinking into their business model. For me, that can that can very often be the the way that people start to get confidence and they can start to relate their business model maybe to how someone else shifted theirs. What would be some examples of other businesses who have introduced some element of circular into their business model retrospectively?
Elisabeth Graf: 20:07
Yeah, I think there are a couple of interesting examples for me, for example, one example being Google, because I thought Circular, Circular business models work really well for companies who produce a physical product. And specifically, I think, if you think of fashion as an industry, manufacturing, but I think Google for me was really surprising, because I thought, okay, this is a digital company, why do they want to move in, in more Circular? And so what they actually say is, okay, so to what extent they have many different areas, but for example, to give you two examples, one is about their data centres, because they're still powered, and how can you actually make the data centres more Circular? How can you repair different components, elements of it. And the other thing is also how you run your business. So your offices, your food, waste collections, other aspects, like everything that produces waste, because people are spending time in an office, at least pre COVID? Or maybe now in the future again? And how do you make that happen? And so how can you transform such a digital big tech company into a Circular company? And as you see from their report, and I can share it later, it just has, like, so many different points of what's their intention and why they they want one to go in that direction. Another example is, I mean, we all heard of IKEA, H&M. H&M wants to become 100% Circular by 2025. I'm curious to see also, what that means in terms of fashion. Because if you're a fast fashion brand, you usually like, you want to sell more clothes. But in Circular, it's not about recycling, recycling is actually the furthest out of a loop if you think about different loops. So the first loop would be you know how to reuse something, how to then repair something, and how to kind of recover something how you recycle something. So recycling is the furthest out but actually, how can you help people? Yeah, help them to reuse their items more, or what would be other elements, not just the recycling part. So the physical part, and I think this is also where designers and digital designers come in. Because if it's really about reusing or repairing, you probably need some digital elements that help customers do that. Another element that I'm very curious to observe more and to see more, and I'm spotting a couple of companies is Circular as a service. As I said, you need so many new capabilities, that it's very hard for a company to build them up alone. And to make those transitions. Of course, the most famous examples are always those big companies, maybe because they have the resources. But if you're a smaller company, it might feel unachievable. And so for example, where to where is a is an innovative partnership of companies that work in textile and fashion. And what they are doing is actually they're coming together, creating this partnership, to really create 100% Circular business model or businesses or allow other businesses to tap into their capabilities and resources. So you have some companies that are specialised just in the production of yarn and fabric and recycling them. You have some that are really specialised in how you design for recycle or reuse. Because of course, when you want to really, truly create a Circular model, you need to put a lot of intention on how you design the product. Now we say sometimes 80% of the impacts are defined when we design something. And you also can't unscramble an omelette. So that's the key stage where you make those, like, super important decision that define how Circular actually your product or your service can be. And then I think it's also interesting of like, how they have capabilities to collect, and you know, take apart the different clothes and recycle them again. So, actually, on their website, you can see like in every step of the Circular model, what are the companies and what do they offer, and I feel that more and more we might see companies transitioning in or being created and emerging that offers Circular as a service. Another example that comes to my mind is Loop in the United States, which basically has these really simple containers, and they partner with different brands so that they can be refilled. And so you actually can find your loved brands, just in a reusable container that you can be refilled. And they take care of all. Refilling and all the aspects around it.
Tom Prior: 25:18
You as someone whose practices is, is really centred around Circular now it's something your consultancy is focused around, maybe you could talk to us about as a designer who is is really working centrally in that area. How do you then take a client on a journey who has shown an appetite for exploring Circular so maybe we could talk a bit about how that engagement tends to start. And then the kind of workshop process you might go through what you might facilitate with with them?
Elisabeth Graf: 25:56
So first of all, I think most of the clients come, maybe not specifically asking for Circular business models, they ask, yeah, see an opportunity, we talk more more about sustainability. It becomes a buzzword, or I'm asked actually, to think about how we can become more sustainable. But I don't know where to start. That's a bit the big question that I that I get. And, and so one of the things that I shared or like I shared an article and wrote an article, like this facilitation of a workshop asking, Where do you start? Where do you see like, the biggest appetite and thinking about the the matrix that looks at like incremental innovation until radical innovation? And do you want to focus more on products and services for the market, or more like how you run your organisation, so the process and the business models? And so when I think about the sustainable business, I think they should operate in all four quadrants, ideally, but you can't start everywhere. And you can't cover everything if you're just at the beginning of the journey. So there, I really want to understand where do you want to start? Like, where is the business most excited about? Is it something that can you make a business case around improving something existing? Or actually do we have the mandate to explore what a new business model could look like, and the Circular business model could look like. So sometimes those companies haven't done maybe a lifecycle analysis, they didn't look so much in detail. And I think my job there is just to open up the conversation with different stakeholders within the company. And so as one of the first workshops, we discuss a bit like you would, you want to start, we decided, okay, they are particularly interested in a Circular business model and exploring what that would mean. And so, then one of the things that I would use is like a the framework of the Business Model Navigator, so you have the four elements that are part of the business model. And they're like the four questions. So we would just sit down and say, like, look at the existing and current business model that you have. So please tell me, who are your customers? What is.. Who are you delivering your product and service to? What are the characteristics? Then we're asking, what do you deliver? Like, what's the product and service offering that you have? How do you deliver that product and offering like, how, how is that actually.. how do the customers get it? And then also the why. Like, what makes this profitable? How do you generate value from this. So if you for example, let's take IKEA now IKEA just has people who might not want to spend so much on furniture but still are like value design. And what they do they create basic furniture that doesn't cost that much, maybe it's not that high quality are tailor made. The interesting thing about how they started to deliver that product offering in the sense that they started creating places outside of the city centre where people could just collect the furniture right away and that was new because if you think about other furniture you needed to have make a plan of it or drawing you need to get it approved to take some time you just can't take it away immediately. And then how I can make some money is really about selling, selling the furniture and of course the meatballs at the restaurant and like for the families who want to hang out there and have a cheap meal! And so the fact is now what you have like you have analysed a bit wider of four key components of of that current business model. And you can start thinking about how you want to change it by using the cards. I don't know if your're familiar with St Gallen and the BMI Business Model Innovation. And that's a framework. That is super interesting, because what it basically started out saying is business model, you don't need to invent something new, like there are existing patterns of business models, and they transform them into different cards. And you can just come here, come together, look at the different cards and kind of the different business models and business patterns. And they did on specific or like, every, like general business models. But recently, the University of St Gallen published a white paper on 38 Circular Ecosystem patterns. So what they looked at, how can you do business model innovation, specifically around Circular ecosystems? And what they also say, it's not like just it's usually not one company, but like your ecosystems of company. So your whole value chain, can you get key stakeholders involved, and they have 38 patterns that are divided into four groups. And the first two groups are really about how you make things. So it's about closing the loop. So patterns are, for example, kind of reuse waste as input for something else. For example, orange peel from like, agriculture becomes actually fibre for new fabric. We see some of those examples, as well as this reverse logistics. So how do you make things and then the second part, the second cluster is really about improving the loop. So for example, increasing longevity, so extending the life cycle, it's also repair and maintenance, if you start to offering this so they, those are basically two clusters, and then which you can find different patterns. And then they created another group, two groups of patterns that are really about how do you generate value? So more about the monetization? So monetize the loop? So for example, can you move to a model that is pay per use, or rent instead of buy? Or can it be a subscription model. So you don't need to own a car, but you can just get access to a car, or you also, and if you think of Rent the Runway, they were very good at kind of you could rent out different clothes, and they started with specific dresses or things that you need for weddings. But their profitability increased exponentially when they moved to a subscription model. So you could just keep three items as long as you want. And when you send one back, you can get another one. And so they also moved within there to a different business model. And then the fourth cluster of patterns is around exciting the loop. So it's about really, how could you create, for example, circular luxury? Like how can you really add the customer like value to it. Another example what they have is, for example, Robin Hood, if you think of Toms, you get one pair of shoes you give to another. So there might not be like immediately linked to Circular Economy or like the most classical ones that you see. But by looking at this pack 38 patterns, and you can imagine them like cards, and you sit down and try to redesign or like imagine different business models. And the nice thing about those groups and those cards is that they help you to not come up just with one potential secret or business model, but with multiple business models. And so I think that's great value. Because when I was running a couple of workshops, it was just great to see like the first business model that they may be designed using those cards, were the most classical ones that you could imagine that, yeah, we could do move to paper use, or we could offer actually repair. And then they started to become more creative and created additional models that were further out and where they started really to do this blue sky thinking. But again, we don't need to expect people to just come up with the most brilliant idea if we don't give them the context or structure to work with it. And so this this card deck that I mean it's a white paper I just transformed it into a card deck but helps them really a lot to have a structure and good way of thinking.
Tom Prior: 34:58
I think the a fantastic tool for visualising where you could go and I'm someone who wants to see examples of a business or a business model and like, oh, okay, I can kind of see how the client working over here, how could kind of adapt an existing example into their business, I think it really brings it to life.
Elisabeth Graf: 35:17
If we take note the IKEA business model, and just think about a couple of things of how we could change it. We could, for example, yeah, we could have a subscription model where you have maybe pay a monthly fee, and you get access to a certain type of furniture. And you can decide when you want to change it and give it back and take new elements so that you, we redecorate your home from time to time, and to make it feel new. But without owning the different items. You could think about, yeah, what they have - the buyback scheme, where you just give back your furniture that you have, and IKEA gives you some money for it, and then they resell it. Or if you think another pattern is that IKEA could use this produce on demand. Instead of mass production that creates waste if you actually could order and see like, how many people want to do this. I mean, there are some, if you think furniture I think Made.com that come does that, no, where you actually wait, and it's produced on demand or some others. But that could be another element of what, what they could actually do. And by just looking at some of these patterns, and thinking about different ways of how they could innovate their business model. And so at the end of this process of a workshop, we would have different ideas. And it just sparks a lot of conversation, and people might have their favourite. And one of the next things that we actually would do is, let's draw an ecosystem map. So what are the different actors that are required to make this business model become a reality? So
Tom Prior: 36:59
So the organisation you've been working with, they hopefully, your consumer IKEA, but also the suppliers and different order. And then, between those actors, we start to draw arrows to see how they connect, are they connected? And what are the flows of goods? What are the flows of data, and also the flows of money? And that's an interesting exercise, because it really makes makes us understand what is the relationship between the different actors? And how complex does this new business model get? Is it quite easy? Or what are actually like some of the aspects that we didn't consider and the questions that are coming up? So my, in my role as a facilitator, then I often write down all the questions that emerge from this conversation in this exercise. And what the companies then have at the end is they have a first idea of potential business models, and the long list of questions, they start to actually need to go back into the organization's as well as often with conversations then with their suppliers and partners to understand, could we make that happen? have, they say they have explored a few ideas, remix some ideas based off those cards, and they've drawn out an ecosystem map, and they've seen some potentially interesting opportunities in there. They might want to take forward, what would be common some of the sort of final steps that you might go through with the client to maybe even test those those those business models in some way? Or maybe expand on a little bit more with with other parts of the business? Where would you kind of take that to naturally next?
Elisabeth Graf: 38:43
I think, when it comes to then testing or experimenting with this potential business model, it becomes so much the same design process that we're used to. It's not that that much different if you have a person at your site that maybe looks at more like the impact from know from carbon perspective or waste or whatsoever. But in terms of experimenting and testing business model it is the same as we usually do in the design process. So we will identify what is the riskiest assumptions, what what needs to be true to make this business model work. And then we write those down, we prioritise them and take the ones where we which have the highest risk and the least evidence and think about how can we design experiments for this and then you can think of our testing business models. Now the book of like the different methods, creating your experiment cards, your learning cards and then setting up those models and see what works and what actually comes up. And as as usual with any like new service or business that you want to design, you will be sometimes surprised what's what will happen or who will be your customers and I want to make an example from this company in in Sweden, and they are like a phone repair company and, maybe they were thinking, actually, our customers will be people who have a broken phone and come to repair it, and we will repair it. So it will be a b2c model. And one of the things that they actually found out that their customers - or the ideal customers - are insurances, because insurances, usually, what they were doing is they're just collecting the phone and sending a new phone out. So substituting and not even checking the phone. But if now insurances say actually, you know what, I'm going to collect the phone, send it to this company, the company will repair it, and then send it back to the customer. And one of the things that the insurance is find out found out by doing that was actually that they reduced their fraudulent claims by 30%. Because now that actually, people need to send in their phone, it really needs to be broken. It just can't be I make a claim. And then I get a new phone, because I just substituted and I just deal with so many numbers that I can check and check if all the phones are really broken or not.
Tom Prior: 41:17
So a lot of the techniques that you would do next, then, would be familiar to designers, as far as how do you the test a proposition, do some proposition testing to test the business model? When we've talked before, you've talked about this sort of Circular Business Model Canvas that you run as well as part of your process? Would you mind touching on kind of how that evolved and where you might what point in the process, you might use something like that? A lot of the message in here is around that these you
Elisabeth Graf: 41:44
There are three elements that are added compared to the traditional business model canvas. And this is something I just found from. So actually, I think also Frog just recently brought out the new version of a Sustainable Business Model Canvas. And they're all same - same, but different. But fundamentally, what you're actually wanting to ask is, no, one the bottom line. You have the structure of the costs. So you want to actually also capture what are like the economic and like environmental and social costs of producing or creating your service or product offering. So what's the impact there, but also, what is like the environmental or social revenue that you generate? So what is the positive impact that your product creates? That hasn't been there before. And then other elements that specifically more around the Circular Economy is interesting to add to this Business Model Canvas is an element know where you have, you have the column where you have the relationship with the client, as well as the channels. And there, you can add a third quadrant that really looks and asks the question what is happening at the end of the life of the product? Because often we don't design the end of the life of a product or of a service. And this helps you to really dive into and ask, what is happening to this product or service? What would be like convenient for the customer in that moment? And what additional value could we generate? If we actually, for example, we collected, recycle it, reuse it. And so again, this is just a way of capturing this element of the Circular business model in the Business Model Canvas. can you can harness processes, tools, canvases that you already know, but you're adding in adding in these elements that bring in that Circular thinking. So not learning this enormous new toolset, but kind of re-mixing a lot of our Design Thinking approach and some of our processing tools to introduce some of these new lenses on it that are so important. So hopefully, that gives people confidence that, yeah, don't not gonna have to go and learn a whole bunch of new stuff that there's some really good ways to remix what you do already to bring some Circular thinking to it. I was actually a bit surprised. I thought I need to learn so much and really get so much better in this. And then I discovered, no, there needs to be a baseline of like really understanding the context and also this carbon literacy, but also it means more because if I say carbon literacy, we might think of somebody call it the carbon vision tunnel so that everything is just measured in carbon, what is the emissions but actually we have social impacts that we want to measure as well and they're equally important. So I think those elements are just your knowledge base, and then the processes and the tools are really just the ones you use as a designer on an everyday basis. And you need too curiosity, and also this experimental mindset to try out your existing tools in this new context and see how it goes, I feel that we are working with unprecedented change. And so nobody's an expert, because we all haven't seen what is coming or what is happening right now before. So we need to move away from thinking that we need to become first experts to do it, we need to try things out. And we need to have the humility to ask others who have maybe been working longer in the in the space, or have have maybe more specific and technical experience, to work with us and to get information or like involving them in the process. Because some have very, very good technical and scientific experience and knowledge. But what they often lack is the ability to simplify that knowledge and to use it in a very simple and easy way, within the organisations. If you think of the recent IPCC report on the impacts of climate change, it's 3675 pages, by the time we finished reading it, we might have invented teletransportation! That's not that's not the case. But still, it's, it's the fact that, yes, we have a lot of knowledge, we have another scientists who, no, but we haven't built on the ability to communicate effectively. And to leverage this knowledge into tools and processes that involve people and make change happen. And I think that's our superpower as designers apart from we have the technology, we might have the processes. In the end, it really boils down to people, because companies are run by people, decisions are made by people. And so it's about, I feel, actually that my work is becoming much more designing change and facilitating change, and also facilitating that learning process within the company. Because yeah, we can have the best solutions. And we might also know how to technically go there. But we need to convince people internally and some extent, also our customers to go in that direction and to make that happen.
Tom Prior: 47:25
And that's an enormous challenge, isn't it? I mean, as designers very often, I think over the years and decades, particularly in user experience, service design, we're having to sell the value of our work, right? And now it's like, actually, we need to show that show the value of caring about this stuff and becoming more more like you say literate in the various factors that affect climate,
Elisabeth Graf: 47:50
it's sometimes can be also very, very small steps, I think, if we think of a customer journey, and can we actually.. or a blueprint, service blueprint, can we add the swim lane, and that is the planet to just like capture, also what would be the potential impacts. And we might not know that because we might not have the competency, but at least we start thinking about it. When we design new services or improve them. I think the other problem that we have is that currently we are thinking in this agile and iterative way. And it's very fast paced often. And we we do things in sprints, and we, we tend to want to be fast and productive. But actually some complexities require some more time and some more thinking. So how do you carve out space in thinking and reflection space within a design process to make space for discussions around unintended consequences, for example, that you create, or when I worked at Idean, which is now Frog, we had this Cards for Humanity, and we had regular sessions by internal champions that would actually look at how can we make this product or digital product more inclusive? What are the aspects, and so we intentionally decided the reflection space to think about this. I feel the same thing. If you have, for example, one person that might be more knowledgeable around the sustainability aspect. Can that person be a sustainable champion in a project or in your process? And say, let's pick out one hour and let's discuss or I facilitate a workshop on unintended consequences. There is also a great ready to use format online that I can share with you and we can link in the show notes. So that that you can have that conversation because I think also it's not just about sustainability so broad and so it's about what is the impact on planet and people, and the community at large.
Tom Prior: 50:04
I completely agree with your sentiment or relate your sentiment of designers have become wrapped up in this rapid growth culture, particularly in start up land where you just want to ship quickly. And very often that doesn't give the space for the kind of thoughtful work that you're advocating. So if I'm a designer that's been listening to this conversation today, and really think I'd love to be making a change in this space, to get started to take those small steps, I'd love to get to the point where I can run some of the kinds of workshops, you've talked about, what would be some of those small steps someone could start taking tomorrow, or next week?
Elisabeth Graf: 50:44
I think, as the first step, I would really invite them on the podcast How To Save The Planet. Dr. Ayana Elizabeth shared this Venn diagram of identifying what what you're good at what you're you like to do? And what the planet needs? And why is that so important? Because I think we don't need all to do the same thing. Everybody can choose their own space within sustainability, to be an advocate for that, because if you want to cover everything, it's too broad. My heart beats for like, I'm super passionate about climate adaptation. So it's much more, the more I've worked on sustainability, the more I found my home in climate adaptation, and what it means is, it's actually how we adapt to the consequences of climate change. So it's really about how can you identify your place? And where.. what if you would project one message very big on this world? What would that be? What what do you want to stand for? And what do you care about, and then take the time to really dive into that topic and get familiar with it. So that you can actually facilitate that conversation. And I think, good ideas or anything, you need to say it multiple times, you just need to get ready to repeat it. Think about how you talk about it, I feel more and more as I work that communication is maybe 50%. And specifically when it comes to climate and the climate crisis, we have seen so much doom and gloom, and it creates a self fulfilling prophecy of that we won't make it. And so that is really bad. And if we just continue with using that fear based messaging, it just puts people in this fight, flight, freeze mode. And mostly they're in a freeze mode where they then don't take action. I want to really advocate if you want to move in that feel proud to be a climate imperfectionist. Nobody of us is perfect in being 100% sustainable. And I think we need to start with small steps and just acknowledge that we're not perfect. And we can't be 100% perfect in all what we do, but we are trying our best. And, slowly, slowly, we will go, we will get better.
Tom Prior: 53:17
It's been an absolutely fascinating conversation. I would like to wrap up by maybe you could share how people can find out a bit more about you? Maybe people are listening to this and would like to maybe talk to you to you and your consultancy about how they can go through some of the process that you've talked about, and maybe some of the projects you've been working on. So yeah, what how can people find out more about you?
Elisabeth Graf: 53:43
The easiest, this may be just also LinkedIn, you can find me under Lilli Graf or Elizabeth Graf. I also have my website, which is lilligraf.com and I'm currently building this new business around climate adaptation that is called IMMA. Basically, it is really about how can we create resilience within communities and companies so that they really can adapt and thrive in the age of climate change. That sometimes means also adapting their business models to new ways of like existing or working or delivering value.
Tom Prior: 54:16
Lilli it has been absolutely fascinating chatting to you today. Not just today, but the conversations we've had leading up to this. I've learned so much. There's so much more to learn. And I'm sure all our listeners have taken away an awful lot of little, little things they can start to do, which I think is a really good message. But also a bit of a framework of how they could start practically working with with organisations who have an appetite for Circular. So thank you so much. And like I say we're going to put a whole bunch of resources in the show notes and in the newsletter that goes with this. So yeah, just want to say thank you so much for being such a wonderful guest. And yeah, perhaps we'll chat again at some point in the future.
Elisabeth Graf: 54:57
Thank you for having me. It was a real pleasure to share some of the insights and findings that I get through the work. And I'm super curious and also who, to the listeners, I would be very curious if you try things out, how does it work? How? What challenges do you encounter in your work? I think that it would be just great to know to share because I think the more we share of the process of how we help companies get into more Circular business models and more like regenerative practices, the more we can actually gain and be faster to achieve the goal that we set ourselves and make this a little bit better.
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