December 17, 2018 Stine Kolding

The LAUNCH Forum: People come first in a Circular Society

It’s our favorite time of the year! And while we love the holidays, it’s bringing our amazing Innovators together with our committed Council Members at the LAUNCH Forum that we look forward to the most.

Last week in Bentonville, Arkansas, some 50 game-changers in the circular economy space convened for the LAUNCH Forum, an opportunity for the 9 latest LAUNCH Innovators to present their solutions and Calls to Action to 30+ leaders in the public and private sector. The Forum, jointly hosted by Waste Management and Walmart, welcomed Innovators from the Netherlands, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and the United States of America, to enter discussions around what the future of the circular economy looks like and how the diverse room of stakeholders could be part of shaping that future. In the spirit of unlikely collaboration, the convening was powered by LAUNCH partners IKEA, eBay, VF Corporation, Novozymes, Kvadrat, and Region Skåne along with Forum sponsors Walmart, Waste Management, Nature’s Path, Sympatex, and Cisco.

For the last nine years, these leaders, known as Council Members, have been a pivotal part of the LAUNCH process. They have worked closely with our Innovators to unlock critical resources and promising opportunities for our Innovators to bring their solutions to market, and ultimately help our communities, our companies and our global society thrive as we work to shift global systems. At this latest LAUNCH Forum in Bentonville, we welcomed LAUNCH newcomers and longtime supporters alike, each with a different story for why they traveled to the Forum and what they were taking away.

A FORUM FOR LEARNING

For Regina Northouse, Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network, LAUNCH Circular was an opportunity to learn. While Regina’s organization recently reached a major milestone — three million pounds of food donated (and 2.6 million kg of CO2 emissions prevented from harming the environment) — joining LAUNCH for the first time meant an opportunity to learn about intersections between her work and other aspects of the circular economy. On her experience, Regina reflected,

“We can do this together, and I learned that at LAUNCH.”

A FORUM FOR ACTION

Elizabeth Bagley, Director of Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences, returned to LAUNCH, bringing her own energy, perspective, and research on how to engage people in a circular future. Her organization’s Academy for All initiative lowers barriers to entry to the sciences by providing free and reduced admission opportunities and access programs, and she shared her experience with the LAUNCH Forum attendees to drive a conversation around how to ensure that the circular society we’re building is an accessible one, one that all people can be part of. At the end of the Forum, Elizabeth shared,

“My favorite thing about this two-day LAUNCH Forum event was networking with folks who truly care about making a difference, people who are willing to roll up their sleeves, get work done, and build the community that we need to make the circular society a reality.”

A FORUM FOR PROBLEM-SOLVING

Dr. Rüdiger Fox is CEO of Sympatex, a pioneer in sustainable functional textiles and a LAUNCH partner. As longtime part of the innovation ecosystem, Rüdiger presented on how the LAUNCH network can be part of reinventing our future, reminding the Council Members and Innovators in attendance that “it’s in your hands”. Rüdiger highlighted that, with LAUNCH, the participants come together to challenge their own thinking and “come out with an economy that can actually safeguard the future for the next generations to come.”

A FORUM FOR COLLABORATION

Faith LeGendre, Circular Economy Solutions Strategist at Cisco Systems, works to enable cities and companies with technology services to bring their circular economy to fruition. For Faith, the unlikely partnerships and unexpected conversations at the LAUNCH Forum were one of the major value-adds. Looking back at her time in Bentonville, Faith explained the catalytic importance of her two days at LAUNCH: “Without this Forum, we would not have known and would not have come together to actually create the solutions that we need for our world.”

A FORUM FOR PROGRESS

For Pia Huusfelt, Global Business Leader at IKEA Group, the LAUNCH Forum in Bentonville, Arkansas, was her second LAUNCH event, following the previous year’s LAUNCH Forum. Over the course of one year alone, with all of the advances in the circular economy, Pia’s own notion of the possibilities had shifted:

“These two days have given me an understanding of where we are as a company… I found out that I can join forces with some of these startups and innovators…”

What’s happens now?

Following the LAUNCH Circular Forum, the LAUNCH team will be working with each of the Innovators to prioritize and capitalize on the relationships and resources they developed during the Forum. This bespoke support is designed to help each Innovator advance their innovation, usually in one or two priority areas identified prior to or during the Forum.

If you or someone you know is interested in connecting with one of the Innovators, please reach out to Toke Sabroe from the LAUNCH Circular team at toke@launch.org.

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