Recognition for the “Makers” of the Circular Economy


In January, the World Economic Forum in Davos also provided an opportunity to turn the spotlight on the men and women who are helping to transform our resource-hungry linear economy into a circular economy. A look at the 2016 winners of the Circular Economy Awards and their projects.


The “Circulars” award ceremony is designed to acclaim the players who contribute significantly to spreading the principles of the circular economy.

Divided into seven categories, the candidates for the 2016 Awards (individuals, companies, local governments and civil-society organizations) were judged by a thirty-strong panel. The results: 9 winners out of 39 finalists, all of them personally committed to separating growth from the use of natural resources.

Companies: the key drivers of this change

What potential could the circular economy have without companies ready to foster it? It would only be a pipe dream. As a result, several categories of Awards honored multinationals and start-ups that are leading the way, beginning with the Accenture Award for Circular Economy Multinational, presented to Veolia (France) and Royal Philips (Netherlands).

Veolia has centered its industrial strategy on the circular economy. Its idea is to rethink its business sectors – water, waste and energy – no longer as silos but as a whole that could be better arranged and managed, mainly through digital technologies. It plans to shift from a pattern of resource consumption to one of resource recovery. Its scope of action includes the optimized recovery and recycling of waste and wastewater, as well as energy performance issues and the use of renewable energies in industrial processes.

Meanwhile, Philips was acclaimed for two innovative approaches: firstly, its switch from the sale of simple products to the supply of solutions, and secondly, its creation of high-quality products from recycled components and materials.

The Ecolab Award for Circular Economy Enterprise went to a mid-sized company, Optoro. The American firm offers a logistics solution enabling retailers to optimize their distribution processes and sell off their unsold stock. Through a “waste-cutting” software platform, it redirects returned and unsold goods to other distribution channels, so that the many products in question do not wind up in a landfill.

With its carbon-recycling technology, LanzaTech, a small but booming New Zealand firm, was recognized by the Young Global Leaders Award for Circular Economy Entrepreneur. Thanks to its biochemical process, it recovers the carbon-rich untreated gas produced by steel manufacturing, and turns it into ethanol.

Signals to incite change

Of course, to encourage the move to a circular economy, States, municipalities, investors and specialized organizations will all have to play their part. The Flanders’ Materials Programme, which received the Award for Circular Economy Governments, Cities & Regions, could be a source of inspiration for them. The Belgian public-private initiative that describes itself as “a network of networks” aims to identify points of leverage and obstacles related to materials management, in order to optimize the instruments of economic policy, change consumer behaviors, and create new jobs.

The Alliance Trust Award for Circular Economy Investor paid tribute to DLL, a global supplier of financial solutions. Thanks to its Lifecycle Asset Management program, it encourages its partners, distributors and suppliers to develop circular business models.

An incentivized approach also inspired the United States Materials Marketplace, a digital platform that received the BT Award for Circular Economy Digital Disruptor. Created by the US Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Corporate Eco Forum, it informs professionals about the materials in the marketplace, so that they can trade in them via a cloud-based database. The goal is to establish new, circular supply chains and identify the necessary support policies.

Convincing convictions

This ceremony, which also aims to showcase the diversity of players involved in the implementation of a circular economy, also put the spotlight on individuals who have become veritable icons for this model.

For example, the Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership acclaimed two such people. Feike Sijbesma, CEO of Royal DSM, was behind the opening of the group’s first waste-to-energy plant in the United States. He also spearheaded research into fossil fuel alternatives.

Lastly, the judges hailed Dajian Zhu, a Professor and Director of the Institute of Sustainable Development and Governance, for his writings and actions in favor of a real green transition for China, through the development of a circular economy.

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