Who Should be the Chosen Talent for Circular Economy Jobs?: Don’t be the Square Peg…

Dec 29, 2014 12:30 PM ET

Sustainability professionals have an important role to play in the circular economy, so how can you make sure your skills fit? As companies across the globe get to grips with the concept of doing more with less, systems thinkers who understand the big picture of finite resources, overburdened ecosystems and the need to reduce social inequality will be the ones to forge the critical links in the value chain that provide the solutions for sustainable business.

The fundamental first step is to move away from the linear model of extraction, manufacturing, consumption and disposal towards something that mirrors the kinds of systems we see in nature. The hydrological cycle, the nutrient cycle, the carbon cycle… they’re all closed loops, feeding back into themselves in a dynamic balance. This is the ultimate sustainability model. In industry, you may have heard of “cradle to grave” thinking, the idea that you can trace a product’s life cycle from the start to the finish. Well, inspired by nature, the emerging circular economy takes this thinking one step further from “cradle to cradle”, turning waste streams into resources that can be mined for value. The challenge to sustainability professionals in this exciting new field is not only to reduce and minimize waste streams in the first place, but to figure out how to turn the waste that can’t be avoided into something useful, and ultimately sold for profit to be turned into something new. 

This is not simply an engineering challenge, or a design challenge, or a finance challenge, or even a supply chain challenge. It’s all of those things. But more than anything else, it’s a communication challenge. Any brand that wants to sell something previously defined as waste is going to need to earn a significant amount of trust before it can do so. That’s trust from within the company, trust from supply chains, trust from investors, trust from regulators, and – the biggie – trust from customers and clients. As Nick Liddell points out in his great article on the Huffington Post, “Imagine knowing the gold in your wedding ring used to be someone’s tooth. Our concept of old and new will need to evolve.”

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Shannon Houde, MBA, is founder of Walk of Life Consulting Limited, an international career advisory business focused solely on the sustainability, social impact, international development and Corporate Responsibility (CR) fields. For more than 15 years she has mentored and trained 700+ professionals and Masters graduates to maximise their personal brands to advance their impact careers. She launched and currently runs the career coaching service for leading sustainability recruitment company, Acre Resources and is partnered with Weinreb Group in the US. Shannon chose sustainability career coaching to combine her diverse experience as a hiring manager, a business coach and a CR consultant for Deloitte, Barclays, Macromedia and WWF, after having started her career 20 years ago in corporate recruiting. Read more about Shannon on CSRwire.