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The Power of Consumers - Mike Barry, M&S

In this 7-minute video, Mike Barry, the Director of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer in the United Kingdom, discusses the vital role of consumers in the transition to the circular economy. He notes that we have to find a different way of servicing the needs of consumers, and ultimately encourage the consumers to join businesses in the journey by showing them the benefits of a circular economy.

“Ultimately the consumer is vital to the circular economy, they’re the ones driving the consumption of trillions of individual items around the planet,” Barry says at the opening of the video.

“Consumers will only join us in this journey if they can see the benefits to them, personally,” he adds. “If all we’re talking about is abstract benefits to the planet - less waste, less climate change, less deforestation - of course that matters to them, they care, but we also need to overlay it with the fact that ‘You personally will benefit’ - this’ll be faster, it’ll be cheaper, it’ll be more aspirational. And if you can link those two worlds of better for planet and people, with better for you the individual consumer, you will win and people will adopt circular economy principles with scale and authority.”

Barry further discusses meeting consumer demands and scaling through collaboration. He notes that companies like M&S that have wide supply chain networks can help facilitate closing waste loops by “scanning for opportunity,” helping other businesses make connections with each other, and fostering collaborations between suppliers as well as with companies in other sectors.

“The customer of today has got infinite choice; they can go out there on the street or online and buy any product, anywhere, at any price. So one of the most important things that business needs to think through in the 21st century, is how do you build lifetime customer loyalty,” he says. Barry believes that one opportunity to do this is through circular models.

He concludes with three recommendations for business leaders: Put the customer at the heart of the circular economy; Create a culture that looks outwards as much as inwards, to allow for collaboration with NGOs, other businesses, and civil society; and Scale your efforts and impact through collaboration.

This video was produced as part of a series on the circular economy by the World Economic Forum, which also featured:

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