There’s no cookbook recipe for changing the global economy. We need a common vision and scalable solutions but it’s really about loving the problem, rejecting incremental change, and going for transformation. Sometimes we’ll fail but we must never give up!

Making a difference

At the Our Ocean Conference in Bali in October 2018, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) launched the Global Commitment on eliminating plastic pollution at source, challenging the global plastic packaging sector to ‘eliminate, innovate and circulate’.

Coming just two and half years after their New Plastics Economy landmark report set out how circular economy principles could transform the sector, it was a milestone achievement for Rob Opsomer and his team of which he’s rightly proud.

More than 250 signatories include companies like Unilever, Nestle and Coca-Cola representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally, as well as financial institutions with more than $2.5 trillion in assets, governments and NGOs.

Before joining the Foundation, I worked with McKinsey as a strategy consultant – but I always felt I needed to do something with more impact and purpose. Working on circular economy has given me the chance to help transform entire systems and economies.

Rethinking plastics, fashion and food

Overseeing EMF’s three systemic initiatives on plastics, fashion, and cities and food, Rob is a master convenor, bringing together businesses, governments, philanthropists, innovators, NGOs, and citizens to accelerate the global transition to a circular economy.

Each initiative follows a ten-year approach to delivering change – first, bring relevant players together and develop a common vision, then innovate new business models and solutions, then mobilise at scale.

All materials- and resource-intensive industries with vast, distributed value chains, reorganising plastics, fashion and food requires unprecedented levels of collaboration.

(c)shutterstock

Today’s linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy is hugely wasteful. Most materials we use, we lose. By rethinking industrial systems, we can secure massive benefits – but only if we collaborate. No one company, manufacturer or government can achieve circularity alone.

Never give up

Fearless in approach, Rob’s other initiatives include national level ‘plastics pacts’ bringing together governments, local authorities and businesses; and a $2 million innovation prize with the Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit focused on designing for circularity.

Find out more about how Rob and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation are helping deliver MAVA’s action plan on Accelerating Circular Economy Practice.

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