A Recap of the Nordic Circular Summit 2023
This year, the annual Nordic Circular Summit took place from October 17 to 18, 2023 in Reykjavik, Iceland. The event, which is considered the biggest conference on circular economy in the Nordics, was co-hosted by the Nordic Circular Hotspot and Nordic Innovation and welcomed an international audience of policy-makers and business representatives to explore the circular opportunities of the Nordic region. The conference counted 6 main stages that hosted several side sessions, 19 official partner sessions, 200 physical attendees, 2,500 digital viewers, and 130+ speakers over 2 hybrid conference days. This year, the Summit focused on the human factors of the circular economy, featuring sessions on nature and biodiversity, circular societies, materials flows and supply chains, finance and economy, and circular success stories and action plans.
The first day of the event centred around exploring the question: “How can the circular transition be used to increase equality and equity and to build safe and future-ready societies and industries?” At the main session of the day, the former President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, answered “We need a new model, a new way for all of us to come together.” The Summit explored such a new model through a variety of voices and viewpoints. For example, the organisation ReGeneration2030 invited youth to speak on the topic at a side session titled “From nature for nature.” Ellen Fokuhl, one of the youth speakers and the Vice Chair of ReGeneration2030, advocated for regenerative and circular solutions with biodiversity in mind. Although there are many factors to consider, implementing a new circular economy model may be easier than we think, claimed Julian Kirchherr, Associate Professor at Roskilde University and a Partner at McKinsey. This is because many skills companies require to transition to more circular business models are already in their possession.
The program on the second day consisted of parallel partner sessions hosted by different organisations. One of the sessions, hosted by the Green Building Council Iceland, discussed the future of the circular economy in the construction sector. It highlighted the challenges and opportunities related to material reuse in construction and investigated emerging technologies and materials that can revolutionise construction. The session also facilitated a brainstorming session to generate innovative strategies for material reuse. Speakers and facilitators included Otto-Wille Koste, Consultant at Demos Helsinki, Katarzyna Jagodzinska, Project Manager in Circular Construction at the Green Building Council Iceland, and Stefan Eriksson, Project Manager at Vasakronan. Overall, the session gathered 55 stakeholders from eight countries and called for creating databases on the available secondary materials for each country. The session inspired participants to look towards the future of the circular economy from the viewpoint of a just social transition rather than solely from the usual angle of innovation and business development.
The Summit was successful in gathering a wide variety of voices, from sustainable businesses and academia to indigenous people and youth. Lina K. Wiles, Chief Sustainability Officer at Adapteo, summarised the key takeaways from the Summit by emphasising, firstly, the importance of human connection to nature as an essential element to transitioning to a circular economy. Second, the conference empowered participants by encouraging every individual to act now and be a part of the change. Third, it questioned how to change systemic business challenges that prevent circular economy principles from being implemented. Fourth, the Summit proposed transforming cities and the built environment as the key to a livable future. Finally, it established the success of circular solutions and claimed that now is the time to scale these important and necessary solutions.