How To Make Circularity Mainstream

The circular economy isn’t a trend. It’s a necessity for sustainability – part and parcel of living in a world with finite resources and over 8 billion people to feed, clothe and house.

Over the last couple of years we’ve been working with an increasing number of businesses and charities who are championing circularity; through new business models and through campaigning for legislative change.

There’s been a big focus on developing technologies and trying to introduce legislation – both incredibly important – but communication and marketing have often been overlooked. Not just in respect of the role marketing has played in fuelling hyper-consumption, but the way in which communicating circular products and ideas often differs from selling standard stuff. It begs the question: are we trying to fit the square peg of marketing, into a circular hole?

To answer this question, we brought together a panel of three insightful practitioners from eBay, IKEA and Too Good To Go; people working for businesses who are piloting and implementing products and services to get the wheels of the circular economy turning.

The conversation was fascinating. We’ve pulled out 6 key learnings from the conversation, but there were so many more practical insights that we’d really encourage you to listen to the 50 minute talk below.


Oops, looks like there was an error loading your video! 😳

Circularity is a growth opportunity, not a threat.

“Circularity is a massive growth opportunity for us. It doesn't mean it's easy or we don’t make mistakes, but that's part of the journey when innovating. It’s an opportunity to reach new consumer segments, while also really delivering our Climate Commitments.”

Heléne Davidsson - IKEA - Global Head of Sustainability IKEA Retail Concept

2. Communicate the benefit for the customer, not the planet

“The tendency has been to show carbon impacts alongside products, trying to guilt you into buying a product because it's sustainable. We know that doesn't work. It needs to be hooked around what other benefits people get from buying the product. The appealing thing from a re-commerce perspective is that you can get the brand you want for cheaper.”

Chris Gale - Head of Circular Innovation & Impact - eBay UK

4. Educate customers about circularity

“Reducing food waste is the number one action you can take as an individual to help tackle climate change. Alongside growing awareness of our offering, part of our mission is to really do that education piece. From how people can store food at home, all the way through to working with governments.”

Vanessa Jefferies - Associate Director of Marketing UKI - Too Good To Go

4. Challenge culture with unexpected partnerships

“We sponsored Love Island, which previously had been sponsored by fast fashion brands. We were the first pre-loved fashion sponsor, with the contestants dressed in pre-loved fashion. It really just hooked onto a cultural moment, speaking to a demographic that maybe didn't see pre-loved as a good fit for them.”

Chris Gale - Head of Circular Innovation & Impact - eBay UK

5. Act with transparency, not fear

“There's so much nervousness around greenwashing, which then makes some businesses not talk about sustainability at all. I think the best way forward is to try and be as transparent as possible of where you are in your sustainability journey.”

Vanessa Jefferies - Associate Director of Marketing UKI - Too Good To Go

6. The circular economy needs clarity

“We know that the functional description and keeping it simple is what works for us with our customers. We tried to rename the area in the store which is often called ‘bargain corner’ – where we have a lot of prolonged product life activities enabling circularity – and we called it ‘Circular Hub’. It did not land well in a lot of markets. One of the key reasons was that many customers were not familiar with the term ‘circularity’. So it just created more confusion than support in creating clarity for customers.”

Heléne Davidsson - Global Head of Sustainability IKEA Retail Concept - IKEA