Circular Economy: Lessons Learnt from Presidents Obama and Duque, Mandela, Nobel Prize Winners and World Bank Leaders

The “Technology, Innovation and Circular Economy Summit” held in Madrid on the 6th of July 2018 united the 44th President of the US, Barack Obama, Columbian President Ivan Duque, Ndaba Mandela, Dasho Karma Ura, 3 Nobel Prize winners, International Organizations and some of the most influential politicians and world leaders in the areas of economy, sustainable development and innovation. As a next generation leader, I was pleased to discuss the future of circular economy with such inspiring figures.

Barack Obama, who has always supported investment in the green economy said: “I am optimistic about the future. Young people must take action when outdated administrations refuse to accept and prepare for the future” – he stated as he shook my hand. Circular economy is significant to all concerned about the future of our planet and about the legacy they will assign to future generations.

President-in-Office of Colombia Ivan Duque spoke about how innovation and creativity could generate a shift towards a circular economy and introduced the concept of Orange Economy – an opportunity the world at large cannot miss. The concept encompasses the immense wealth of talent, intellectual property, interconnectedness, and the cultural heritage of all developing countries.

Branding-wise Millennials and Generation Z consumers are increasingly aware of how the products they are purchasing affect the environment. Companies need to adapt quickly and create products that satisfy the values that these generations behold. Creating products that are fit for circular economy is not difficult, it is merely different. However, this process is worth the initial investment since the consumer of the future will be put off by linear economy. Companies who disregard adapting, will fail in the long-term.

Ndaba Mandela the grandson of Nelson Mandela, President of Africa Rising and I, agreed on our duty to our countries. We settled that it is one’s greatest mission to do the most good for the greatest number of people, especially when one comes from a country with a stigma such as South Africa or Romania. It is one’s duty to leave the world a better place. This can be achieved through circular economy. Moreover, Ndaba Mandela recently published ”Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from my Grandfather, Nelson Mandela”, a book which can prove to be a valuable source of inspiration to all who wish to make a difference in the world. The book can be found here.

Dasho Karma Ura, the Minister of Happiness in the Kingdom of Bhutan and Board Member of the Royal Monetary Authority (Central Bank) of Bhutan, told me that imagining a society in which you would like to live is paramount for national progress. “If you do not do this, you will end up reinforcing the present predicament”. According to his world-renowned theory, gross national happiness is directly linked to consumption and to a prosperous economy.

The two Nobel Prize Winners in Economy amongst which Finn Kydland and Christopher Pissarides, as well as Barry Barish, the Physics Laureate, all agreed that circular economy as a regenerative system does not only benefit the environment, but it also represents a good business juncture. They call for design thinking, systems thinking, product life extension and recycling, whilst forecasting that the current linear economy will fail. UN Advisor and Corporate Responsibility Guru, Bernardo Kliksberg, agrees. International Organizations such as the World Bank, the World Tourism Organizations, the American Sustainability Council together with entrepreneurs and corporate directors all declared their pledge to circular economy. Together with David Levine, the President of the American Sustainability Council, I have discussed applicable ventures that could be implemented in my home country Romania.

The event was organized by the Advanced Leadership Foundation, whose President, Mr Juan Verde was a political adviser to Senator Ted Kennedy, to President Bill Clinton, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama’s campaign president. Mr. Verde opened the event together with the Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, as well as José Luis Bonet, President of the Chamber of Commerce in Spain. Moreover, Mr Ryan Stanley, senior member of the Advanced Leadership Foundation’s board of directors and renowned investor, discussed about macro-economic strategies.

After being inspirited by global leaders who pledged their allegiance to circular economy and to leaving the world a better place I cannot but feel optimistic too about the future!