Advancing the Circular Economy Ecosystem in Finland

On 27 February Business Finland hosted a seminar to introduce their game plan for making Finland a key player in the global circular economy ecosystem. I took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about their strategy, funding and resources. Before that, I needed a quick explanation on what the circular economy is, which Outi Suomi and her team gladly provided.
A clear definition, referenced in the presentations, is provided by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:
Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles: design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.”
The ecosystem goals of Business Finland are in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN; 17 goals to create a more sustainable future for all with an achievement target of 2030. Business Finland has created a roadmap including 66 unique projects to be launched on 13 March 2019. The roadmap aims to establish Finland as a leader in circular economy solutions and a model for other countries. It also wishes to highly publicize its efforts and move the circular economy concept into the mainstream, making it a cornerstone of the Finnish economy.  

The business model of the Bio and Circular Economy in Finland is focused on product life extension, product as a service, sharing platforms, renewability and resource efficiency and recycling.

A great example offered by Laura Juvonen of Technology Industries Finland is to sell light as a service instead of selling lightbulbs. This concept takes the focus away from the actual material of the product and puts it wholly on the concept of light. Laura also spoke of a Circular Playbook (, which claims to be “Circular Economy business models for Finnish SMEs in the manufacturing industries”.

Business Finland is applying its own circular economy business model to the efforts implored by their team outside of the country. The process utilized by the Business Finland Global Network stated simply is to: 
·      identify a challenge within the global community
·      identify a solution within Finland through the business community
·      identify stake holders to support the solution
·      create proposals for partnership
·      provide funding
·      conduct feasibility studies

During a panel discussion near the end of the session, Tatu Leppänen of Tracegrow Oy succinctly stated that the greatest challenges for Finnish SME’s abroad are: visibility, credibility and resources. He further explained that potential clients in the US are often skeptical of the success and scalability of Finnish innovations, and it would be helpful to have the backing of a government resource to reinforce the validity of their claims. 

With an emphasis on innovation, the Business Finland team feels confident that the country is poised to take a leading role in the new circular economy. While other countries, such as Denmark, are also making great strides in this area, the message was clear that this method of thinking is in line with the values of the Finnish people. As stated by Kari Herlevi of Sitra, it is both Finnish strategy and actions infused with a sense of urgency that is allowing the country to emerge as thought leaders. Training in this area begins at the school level so that the circular economy is ingrained in all children and eventually all citizens of Finland.