with Sacha McNeil
For Louise Nash, nature isn’t something to experience on the weekend or holidays, it's a way of life. From day one, as a bright eyed bundle of joy coming home to her family’s market garden in Otahuhu Auckland, Louise was immersed in a belief system that’s all about working with nature. That notion of harmony and reciprocity is ingrained into Louise’s DNA - how she lives her life and how she believes we must all operate in our businesses.
Louise has always had a deep interest in understanding ecosystems - the influences, the circuit breakers and the impact those interventions have on the whole. After completing her Bachelor degree in Economics at Auckland University, it was the Internet that was starting to stand out as a circuit breaker within the creative communities ecosystem.
So being the curious type, Louise decided to make this the thesis for her first Master’s degree in Commercial Law. And from there, she side-stepped into the communications industry.
As someone who understands the interplay between things, Louise had an innate ability to identify future trends and this landed her strategic advisor roles at major advertising and communication agencies around the world, helping brands navigate the future and build strategies based on empathy and insight. Her entrepreneurial spirit also led her to start her own strategic communications agency working with big global brands.
But it was after coming home to New Zealand when she realised something big was brewing. Major transformative changes were converging - climate change, digitisation, globalisation - and Louise saw clearly the environmental repercussions if we kept doing what has always been done. It was time for a new narrative for business.
Not someone who shys away from a challenge, rather a lifelong learner whose philosophy is to ‘love the problem’, Louise took this inkling and ran with it. She literally dropped everything and used the Master of Technological Futures as a springboard to reframe her 20-year career built with creative problem solving, design thinking and collaboration practices, to become a powerful force to help businesses create real lasting positive change. And Circularity, a codesign transformation agency, was born.
It’s this building block journey Louise has taken, a path that hasn’t always been straight forward, that has all added up to where she is now. There’s no question that Louise is on a trajectory to make a massive impact, one that will ripple out across businesses, communities and, hopefully, our entire society.
When you know we’ve only got a short amount of time to get things right for the planet and keep the world as we know it intact, apathy to the challenge ahead of us doesn't really cut it. Sure, reports and screeds of data can help, but if it often only points out what’s wrong without offering any real solutions, it leaves many businesses asking the question - where do we start?
The challenge to change can feel overwhelming, especially when you try to view the problem with the same lens that was used to create it. Louise Nash could see this was true for so many of the businesses she’d been working with - she knew it was time to radically reinvent how to tackle these systemic problems.
With a strong background in building brands, teamed with new skills and tools gained in the Master of Technological Futures, Louise was in the perfect position to help businesses redesign themselves to operate out of the take make waste linear world into a regenerative circular one. The Master's programme gave her the opportunity to deep dive into the circular economy opportunity, create the Circular by Design methods as her key artifact and kick start her first project with ecostore.
She founded Circularity, a circular transformation agency that empowers people and the businesses they work within to problem solve solutions for a radically changing world. The circular by design methods provide a roadmap to design out waste, keep materials in use and regenerate living systems - for both human and planetary to thrive.
Circularity has become the leading voice for circular economy projects in New Zealand - unlocking potential and reducing environmental impacts across all types of industries, from construction to tourism to FMCG.
If you or your business are ready to become part of the circular economy, visit circularity.co.nz to find out more.
TECH FUTURES LAB BLOG ARTICLE
What goes around, is better for all.
“One of the greatest things we need to do for this generation is to re-wild our earth, to release the pressures on the wildlife habitats to allow them to do their job of carbon sequestration, those natural habitats that right now are basically being used to produce products for us. So the idea that if we don't have to go back to those environments and do that, it's a huge impact.”
Louise Nash, Master of Technological Futures graduate and founder of Circularity and XLabs.
Once you know the Circular Economy and the fundamental principles it promotes, it’s hard to dismiss it as simply a ‘nice to have’. It makes perfect sense and offers business, industry and society an olive branch to not just reconcile our relationship with the natural world but thrive within it.
The idea of a Circular Economy is not all that new. Walter Stahel was one of the first people to formulate the concept back in 1982 when he published his prize-winning paper “The Product Life Factor”, the first publication that defined a ‘closed loop economy’.
Now, as the world grapples with the climate crisis and the vast impact we humans have on the natural environment, the concept of circularity is transforming into tangible solutions.
Today, one of the most active advocates for the Circular Economy model is the Ellen McArthur Foundation, set up specifically to ‘accelerate the transition to a circular economy’.
There are three key principles of the Circular Economy:
Design out waste and pollution
Keep products and materials already in the system in use
Regenerate natural systems
A circle is perfect
The inspiration for circular economy thinking comes from nature - where there is no waste and everything inside the ecosystem is part of a never ending cycle.
Yet when we look at the world we’ve created, accelerated by industrial revolutions, nearly everything has been built on a take - use - waste model. This is fundamentally flawed because it’s founded on an assumption that resources are infinite - which clearly, they are not.
This underlines how the circular economy isn't a ‘nice to have’, it's essential if we want to not just survive but thrive into the future.
Saskia Verreas, Innovation Advisor at Tech Futures Lab and Future-Fit advocate, is firm about this. “There is no question about the fact that we have to go to a circular model on everything we do and that includes business."
At Tech Futures Lab, circular thinking is a fundamental component in the Master of Technological Futures, and in fact all our programmes, as it underpins the values we uphold of creating regenerative, ethical and purpose-led businesses.
In Saskia’s informed view, all businesses must become ‘future-fit’, but “you can still build a business and build the value that’s required, but do it completely differently.”
The only way is up
The most interesting thing about the circular economy model is that it really only has positives to it. Yes there are some speed bumps to get over while transitioning from a linear to circular approach but there are major opportunities in making this shift.
For one, designing out waste and pollution is clearly a good thing, for the planet and therefore the environments we live in.
And when we design to keep products and materials in a closed loop system, we don’t just release the pressures on natural environments, we innovate, we create new business opportunities and we develop stronger connections with the communities we operate within.
One business’ waste output may be another’s material input - in this scenario it’s a win-win relationship that can lead to stronger networks and more resilience in times of crises - like when international supply chains are disrupted. The financial impact is also positive - reusing, recycling, repurposing all reduces the need to buy new, so savings can be made.
And a real positive halo effect of a circular economy is the wellbeing impact it can provide businesses - for employees, for its suppliers and for its customers.
Employees will not only feel good about the positive contribution they have on our ecosystem but also a circular model requires more creative thinking, ingenuity and resourcefulness - all capabilities that provide great job (and personal) satisfaction.
Suppliers become partners and, because transparency is critical in the circular economy supply chain, trust and deeper connections will evolve.
And for customers, sustainability and environmental impact is fast becoming one of the most important factors in buying decisions.
Waste no time
As consumers, we have to demand better, think consciously and vote with our dollars. As business leaders and owners, we have to decide today to make the shift and plan to transition, with deadlines. Because a circular model does take time to implement, and we haven’t a whole lot of time left to start getting things right.
Listen to Louise's story of how she used what she already knew, layered it up with new tools and created a business that's dead set on massive change.