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Product innovation as a driver of the circular economy

Product innovation enables a circular economy, creating opportunities to introduce products that are circular by design.
© University of Glasgow

The importance of product innovation in driving circularity

Product innovation introduces new materials into the economy. This means that they are able to be “circular by design”. In this step we look at how rethinking towels – a key product used by Salons to deliver their service of hairdressing has affected resource use, and material flows and the consumer experience.

Rethinking towels

In our podcast we heard how Anne and Keith identified cotton towels as an area where they felt they could adopt a more sustainable solution. On her website, Anne blogs about sustainability. Here is how she describes her thinking about towels and why she chose to work with a new supplier…

‘I began looking at the environmental differences between using and laundering cotton towels and disposable salons earlier this year and I found there was so much unnecessary waste with cotton,’ said Anne, who earlier this year converted her salon so it has an almost zero carbon footprint. ‘And when I looked in more detail at disposable towels I knew instantly I wanted to work with Easydry. It has gone much further than any other company in seeking out the greenest, most sustainable ingredients and partners, and all its processes are completely transparent.’

Easydry is part of the emerging circular economy in the Hair and Beauty Industry and is an example of how the shift to a more circular economy is being driven by product innovation. 

In this step, we share an interview with, Anne Butterly, the CEO of Easydry. In the video, she talks about the product innovation that led to the development of the towels. She also outlines the value proposition that they offer customers such as Anne and ultimately the clients of the hairdressing salons that they partner with. We then share a short video of Anne describing the impact of the towels and how she extends their use! 

Before you watch the two YouTube videos, please take the time to revisit the business model canvas the 9 R framework. 

Spotting the impact

As you watch the videos try to apply your understanding of the theories and ideas we have covered during this course so far to describe what Anne Butterly and Anne Veck enable by creating and using the towels. 

Guidance 

This step should take about 20 minutes. In this step, you are asked to watch two YouTube videos (14 mins in total). You may wish to pause the videos at various points to note down your thoughts. As you watch the videos please think about:

  1. The “9 R’s”. Anne Butterly established her business to offer a sustainable solution to the hair and beauty industry. Which of the 9 R’s is her business based on? 
  2. For Anne and Keith, using the towels affects a number of different aspects of their business model. Using the business model framework to support your thinking try and identify which of the 9 elements of their business model the towels have an impact on. 

Please watch the 12-minute YouTube video: 

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

In the next YouTube video (1 min 30s), Anne discusses the impact of the towels and additional uses for them!  

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

As we close this step, please reflect on the different aspects of the business that re-thinking towels has impacted. 

© University of Glasgow
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Tackling Climate Change: Sustainable Business Models for a Circular Economy

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