Business leadership in a circular economy - a Q&A with Kevin Moss

Based on last year’s rave reviews by Hearts and Minds participants, we are thrilled to welcome Kevin Moss back as a keynote speaker at Hearts and Minds 2020. Kevin serves as the Global Director of the World Resource Institute’s Business Center, a program that helps the private sector develop strategies that support sustainable strategies and drive growth.

Sustainability is having its rightful moment, but why do you think we are so engaged today when it comes to our consumption decisions?

Our global waste problem is something people can see and feel. Recent reports have made the resource impact of our habits very clear.

You've talked about resource efficiency as part of a circular economy. Remind us, what are the five levels of resource efficiency?

The hierarchy of strategies from most preferred to least is: reduce (buying less); reuse (using more often and for longer); recycle (using existing materials to make new products); recovery (recovering energy from waste by burning it); and landfill (safe disposal of the remaining waste).

Recycling, recovery and landfill shouldn’t make us feel good, just less bad. Only buying less and reusing should make us feel good.

How do you determine which method to use?

We should start at the top of the hierarchy. Research from the Center for Business Sustainability at WRI indicates that we will not see enough change through recycling and efficiency-improvements alone. We need to consume less new stuff. I’m happy to say that we’re seeing customers and companies embrace reuse in the apparel and furniture sectors as business models.

I have a long way to go in my own consumption patterns. I have a passion for antique books. However I think of myself as being the caretaker rather than permanent owner of those books. I am looking after them while they are of interest to me, until the next purchaser does the same. My ideal self would be able to apply that philosophy to everything I buy and own.

Is there something in sustainability the U.S. could learn from the Nordics?

Yes. The U.S. brings a strong commitment to innovation and a creative optimism that anything is possible. The Nordics bring a complementary holistic approach, a greater awareness of resource boundaries and an openness to find a route to both economic growth and responsible consumption.

Kevin Moss is an inspiring and thought-provoking speaker and leader, and has received recognition as such by the Trust Across America Top 100 Thought Leaders and the Guardian Sustainable Business 30 Most Influential Sustainability Voices in America. Kevin has also received PR New's CSR Executive of the Year Award.