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Closing the circle: a circular economy never gets old

April 10, 2018 1:40 pm | Door Ahrend

Changing to a Circular Economy is getting more and more popular. As a Cradle to Cradle Company, Ahrend has been trying to close the cycle for many years now. Diana Seijs is coordinator CSR & Sustainability and explains everything about how the Circular Economy at Ahrend works and what the most interesting innovations are. The keyword? Modularity.

An eternal life cycle because of circularity

In a Circular Economy, products no longer have a life cycle with a beginning, a middle and an end, but a cycle that goes on for eternity. Does the arm-rest of a chair needs to be replaced? Then the part comes back in the cycle of the same or another product. Less waste and a positive contribution to our eco system!

Ahrend feels very strongly about circularity.  ‘Even before we became a Cradle to Cradle Company,’ says Diana. ‘We are striving for the most sustainable solution of all: making high quality products that we can re-use endlessly.’ These product are timeless, beautiful and most of all modular. By making a product modular, all the parts can be changed separately. Thus an old arm-rest doesn’t have to be discarded, but can be used over and over again. The Ahrend 2020 office chair is an example of a Cradle to Cradle product that was built entirely modular. ‘Each separate part can be re-used ánd recycled,’ explains Diana. This way Ahrend contributes to keeping the world a bearable place to live.

The Ahrend 2020 desk chair is completely modular and therefore part of the circular economy

A positive influence on the Circular Economy

In 2017 Ahrend became a part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an important international platform for the implementation of the Circular Economy. Together with leading multinationals, Ahrend develops new possibilities for the Circular Economy. The goal is to close the production cycle in 2020 at the latest. Using the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s method of measurement, Diana explains what the circular process at Ahrend looks like and what the most important values are. ‘In the first phase, Understand, everything is about regenerative thinking. We consider what impact our products and the production of it have on social, cultural, natural and human capital. Our focus is on creating a positive impact on our society.’ Nature inspires Ahrend in this process. ‘For example in 2009, when we developed bio-composite table tops. The tops are made of burlap and therefore fully compostable.’

In the Define phase, the design gets a shape. ‘As an important value from the Circular Economy we work in teams. This way we can combine knowledge and expertise and realize a successful implementation,’ explains Diana. ‘We find the input of research and education institutes very valuable.’ Ahrend stimulates and involves a new generation of designers and research with their collaboration in product development. ‘Our innovation policy is open: we want to design products and services that the entire market can use and share the knowledge we gained.’

In the production phase, Make, Ahrend finds it especially valuable to choose for high-quality material for the design. Diana: ‘You can choose for material that just looks good, but if you can’t use it later because you had to glue it of because it it harmful for people and the environment, it’s useless.’

Continuously improving

In the last phase of the circular model it is time to launch and perfect the product or service. ‘By testing prototypes in a working environment, we get feedback about our design from real users in a real environment. Because being critical and improving continuously is also part of the circular process!’ ends Diana the circle.

Curious about our circular vision and products? Read more on our CSR pages.

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