What is the circular economy?
The circular economy challenges our current ways of thinking in business to reduce waste, presenting itself as a solution to combat our current climate crisis. It’s based on three principles: designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems. Patricia explains more, “At the moment our economy works in a very linear way; we extract resources from the ground, we manufacture it, turn it into a product, we sell it, use it and then it’s either just left in landfill or in people’s houses.”
The circular economy aims to turn this on its head by re-manufacturing, re-using, re-distributing and recycling products so they go back into the economy, maximising the use of products, materials and resources thus avoiding the notion of waste.
“A lot of people think it’s just recycling, but that’s plan Z. The circular economy looks at how you design things that can be made to last. This is where I find it really interesting - how do you make business models that are still profitable by using circular principles?”
This is where the Circular Economy Club comes in.
What is the Circular Economy Club?
The Circular Economy Club (CEC) is a large international network of 5500+ circular economy professionals and organisations visible in more than 240 cities and 140 countries. Patricia is the Director of Programmes and a Member of the Board at the CEC, and has been part of the core team for over 2 years, “Our aim is to connect people and solve global challenges to create cities that diminish the concept of waste.”
Our aim is to connect people and solve global challenges to create cities that diminish the concept of waste.
The CEC recently launched their Circular Cities Week; holding workshops across the world involving speakers from academia, government, business and charities to map out the opportunities and next steps for circular economy within their cities, “These findings have been sent back to us at CEC and we’re creating a report that we will shortly publish and send out to city-level governments to give them a push and advocacy to create roadmaps within their cities.”
Patricia’s involvement in Circular Economy research and on the ground initiatives have enabled her to showcase her work at various events including the United Nations, Ellen MacArthur's Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF), international academic conferences, and become a published Author. She was selected out of 400 applicants for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy Pioneer programme 2019. This programme aims to ‘spearhead communities to help the Ellen MacArthur Foundation catalyse understanding of the circular economy and contribute towards a generational shift in thinking.’
It’s evident that Patricia is striving to not just drive awareness of the circular economy but advocate for real tangible change across the world. She says, “We’re trying to create a community and spread the word but also create impact. A lot of people talk about things but it’s not always applied in the real world.”
Although her interest in the circular economy as a theoretical concept peaked during her time at university, Patricia attributes her wider curiosity for International Business and globalisation to her childhood growing up in the vibrant Ho Chi Minh City, “When we first moved to Vietnam it was a country that was still being heavily developed. When the embargo was lifted, you were seeing a lot of foreign direct investment and a lot of the private sector investing in Vietnam. From the 12 years that I was there, I saw 2 different countries. You could see how business influences a country’s development path – economically, socially and also environmentally - and I think that’s where my interest in business as a development actor came in.”
During her time in Ho Chi Minh City, Patricia completed her schooling at BIS, including her IGCSEs and her IB Diploma. She describes embarking on her IGCSEs as “the pivotal moment,” during her studies. “I think it was that extra responsibility and knowing IGCSEs led up to your IB and IB then leads up to university so it’s that chain. IGCSEs is where that started for me.”
The IGCSEs span Year 10 and 11 and are tested using a blend of formal examinations and practical coursework to suit different learning styles, “I always loved doing the coursework and it was the same through IB and university because I always found coursework much more interesting. You have a bit more flexibility and you’ve got time to think about it for yourself.”
Patricia goes on to describe how the IB Diploma successfully prepared her for the transition to university life, “I couldn’t be happier that I did IB. After IB, university is just a bit more of a breeze. There were people on my course that were stressing about having 3 months to write two 1000-word essays and I thought ‘that’s so nice!’”
Find something that you’re passionate about and everything else will just fall into place.
Alongside her work with the CEC, Patricia is employed at the Technology Consultancy company Capgemini, “I have to juggle both but I don’t mind because I enjoy it. Ever since I finished university I’ve always been committed to the CEC. Although I do have a full-time job just seeing the results and seeing how far the CEC can go is really motivating. We’re all doing it because it’s something we actually believe in, it’s something we all care about. Finding something that you’re passionate about is the most fundamental thing.”
Patricia’s dedication and capacity to drive forward her passion for the circular economy in parallel with her full-time job is inspiring. But for Patricia, the next ambitious step is to integrate the two, “I want to give CEC as much visibility as possible but also progress in my day job so I actually want to have conversations internally at Capgemini to see how we can establish circular economy within the company.”
Finally, we asked Patricia for some words of wisdom for students currently undergoing the IB Diploma:
“If I could speak to my previous self I would say not to stress out too much. Try to do your best because at the end of the day that’s as much as you can do. School is very different to the real world so enjoy the time with your friends and being at home but also try to find something that you’re passionate about and everything else will just fall into place.”
At BIS HCMC we are creating global change-makers just like Patricia who are no longer accepting the status quo but driving forward with their passion to make a tangible impact on the world.
Watch the full interview here:
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