Assuming global responsibility by closing all the loops

Assuming global responsibility by closing all the loops

Photo by Oliver Hale on Unsplash

To assume global responsibility means to close all the loops

In February 2019 Pontis took part in Global Learning lecture and a workshop of Open Source Circular Economy Days at universities in Kosice and Presov.  

Last week on 19th February 2019, Tomáš Horváth and Jakub Šimek visited two universities, UPJS in Kosice and UNIPO in Presov, to discuss with students and about circular economy in the context of a globalized world and also to have a consequent workshop that had an aim to motivate students to produce and share practical ideas about circular economy.

A company that has two other goals beyond profit

Tomáš Horváth is a confounder of sobi.eco, a social business focused on producing consumer products, such as laptop covers, from the recycled textile and plastic. Their business has also a social aim, the products are manufactured in Slovakia by protected workshops for people with disabilities. And therefore is a good example of an omni-considerate enterprise that tries to optimize around at least three dimensions – to maximize ecological, social and business values. Tomáš has previously worked on development projects in Uganda, where he cofounded a health clinic. He has advised Slovak government on the process of implementing Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals, and collaborated also with the Ministry of Health and worked for the Slovak NDGO Platform. 

Inspiration from exponential technologies and digital fabrication

Tomáš provided students with inspirations on circular economy from around the world, for example a fair and circular fashion by MUD Jeans that adopted a renting model, not an ownership model and a way how to efficiently recycle the jeans and break the textile into fabric. Jakub talked about the risks and opportunities of industrial automation and exponential technologies. These allow for radically shorter supply chains and bringing the manufacturing back to industrialized countries. That can have a mix of positive but also negative outcomes on poorer countries. But it also has clear ecological benefits by reducing emissions from transportation and waste of materials e.g. through 3D printing. One example is a new Speedfactory that opened in Germany and produces Adidas Futurecraft4D shoes, that have midsole that is 3D printed by machines from Carbon, a US startup. Another example of the use of exponential technology is BioCarbon Engineering, a company that plants trees by using drones, sensors and artificial intelligence.

Workshop aimed at rapid prototyping

The aim of the OSCE workshop part of our event, that followed the lecture and discussion at the two universities, was to go beyond lectures and discussions and actually get into the mood of practical and rapid prototyping. We wanted to disrupt the traditional model of top-down instruction, where some expert comes and tells students what to do, how to behave and what to think. We wanted to inspire them and nurture their own creativity to come up with their own ideas and co-create them from bottom-up. We split the students into pairs and gave them an impossible task, to come up with an innovative circular economy solution in 10 minutes, then get a feedback from other group(s) of students in another 10 minutes, and then write it down and share with us in another 10 minutes. The idea was even to use the last 10 minutes to create something like a Facebook page and a marketing slogan. The actual reality was of course much messier. Students created bigger groups, were hesitant to ask for feedback and often lost focus. But the result is 20 ideas with names of the teams and often a slogan for the product and at least some form of feedback for some products – most often that it already exists somewhere.

Students let their imagination run wild   

Most of the ideas were connected to fashion industry which might be a result of availability bias – as this is the area that Tomáš Horváth, talked about the most in connection with his sobi.eco business.

UmbrellaBottle

One of quite surreal ideas was to create an umbrella that would be filtering water into a bottle, an UmbrellaBottle. The student Vlada from Presov University came up with the idea. She studies political science and together with her friend Kristina comes from Ukraine. Vlada told us that she had this idea when she was a kid but doesn’t know if it is feasible. One can imagine some smart materials that would not only filter the rain water and connect an umbrella with some designer water bottle into one product, but also smart materials that would e.g. work as solar panels and provide not only shade from sun, but also charge a battery and maybe a lamp in the lid of the bottle. One can go even further and imagine how the smart bottle would brew a hot tea in a rainy weather.   

EAC Watch – Eco and Cool

The EAC watch concept was created by students Alžbeta, Michal and Adrian from UPJŠ in Košice. It uses recycled tires as materials for the watch band and also uses a business model of renting that allows it to reuse and recycle some older but functioning parts in creation of new watches. This allows customers to reduce waste by the use of rubber as opposed to leather that is less durable and needs to be replaced often after a year of frequent use. It also allows customers to keep track with fashion and change style, but without piling up products at home they don’t need anymore. This allows customers to remain Eco and Cool.

Mateco – Ecological Baby Diapers

Mateco is a company idea of students from Kosice - Barbora, Janka, Katka and another Barbora. They came up with two products – baby diapers from recycled textile and glasses frames made out of recycled plastics. The main idea is to produce the diapers locally and on sustainable ecofriendly machinery that is also produced based on circular economy by mothers themselves, hence the name Mateco (similar to “Mother Eco”). The idea to produce ecological baby diapers from the recycled textiles and by using machines that are also produced on circular economy basis is a good example of an ambition to close all the loops along the supply chain and production, and thus to aspire towards an ideal of omni-consideration.

The point of ‘closing the loops’ is more general and can be applied also outside circular economy

We also tried to convey the idea to students that closing the loops means assuming responsibility for not just the waste but also other externalities of our actions, like unintended consequences in various areas of life. Students who joined the discussions and the workshop were studying subjects such as: political science, media and marketing, or history. So we wanted to inspire them to think about closing the loops also in terms of e.g. accepting the political responsibility if someone is an elected official and produces actions that have negative unintended consequences. Nassim Taleb wrote a whole book on the subject titled, Skin in the Game, that aims to reduce risks in various complex systems (human society, economy) by adopting simple principles, such as having a skin in the game.

Closing all the loops is a very similar idea of assuming global responsibility – for the whole of our actions but also for people in faraway places. Closing all the loops thus shall be also an integral part of Agenda 2030 and applies to various Sustainable Development Goals, beyond the SDG12 of Responsible Consumption. For example, the SDG Target 17.14: Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development is an ambition to close all the loops and reconcile various and often competing objectives in social, economic and ecological dimensions. 

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