How a home appliances company experienced an immersive circular transition

Dec 19, 2022 Share the story:

Knowing about circular economy is one thing, but implementing circular economy is way more complicated. That is why a large home appliances company formed a team for Inchainge's 3-week open program: Circularity Hands-On.

This comprehensive learning experience helped them transform strategy into action, make mistakes, and win or lose millions without real-world repercussions, except for many learnings and actionable insights. Not only that, but they managed to acquire knowledge on circular business model innovation and several other key topics while collaborating with other participants, who brought in different perspectives from various industries, backgrounds and departments.

“The other participants were a big part of it, since they had different backgrounds and their questions opened new horizons for me, so the networking aspect was definitely a big part of the learning.”

To make all of this possible, Inchainge's circular economy business simulation game The Blue Connection powered the learning to create a virtual and engaging setting. During six rounds of cross-functional decision-making, the home appliances company had to transform an e-bike manufacturer from a linear take-make-dispose to a circular strategy. Each game round introduced new elements to consider: product design | sales contracts with retailers | choosing the right value chain partner | measuring circularity | revenue models | financing schemes with the bank | & more...

How did they deal with the complex world of circular economy?

During an interview with Inchainge, one of the team members mentioned that although home appliances are not the most complex engineering products, many parts go in. In such a situation, keeping track of what can be recycled, remanufactured, or enter the second-hand market can be challenging.

The Blue Connection enabled the home appliances company's team to understand the interdependencies, causes, and consequences of decisions across different departments.

“The best [part of the experience] was to work together with my colleagues, with dedicated time to go through the experience and have weekly goals to reach step by step. The most important [part of the experience] was to have a safe playground to test different variables of circular economy and to see the results immediately”

Making Circular Transition a Hands-On Experience

When the home appliances company was planning its transition to a circular economy, there were many ideas, but they were only possible in theory. When it came to operational activities, and the time to act, a team member said, “it was so much more difficult. There are no established processes within the company. It was hard to take concrete actions, and no one had practical experience about the topic.” From Inchainge's experience, many organizations face this hurdle which does not mean they are setting up for failure. That is why the home appliances team also got involved with Inchainge's circular economy business game, The Blue Connection, which gave them the hands-on experience they were looking for.

“When we started with the circular business game, The Blue Connection, we started working on way more practical models and that’s when we could really see the difference. How things are running and everything that should be considered.”

Decisions That Make an Actual Impact

During the in-game transition, the home appliances company had to consider strategies like recycling and remanufacturing but also understand how these would impact The Blue Connection’s financial situation and circularity score. In this case, KPMG, one of the world's four largest audit and accounting firms, presented several deep dives on the circular economy. This helped the team better grasp topics such as measuring circularity and the main KPIs they had to consider.

“During the game, I have learned a lot, and some of the preconceptions that I had about circularity and supply chain changed throughout the game.”

The Blue Connection allowed them to test whether applying more recyclable components would increase their overall circularity score or profitability. They were able to experience the life-like implications of their strategies and decisions.

Know what you are talking about!

One of the things at the forefront of any change is clear communication. To get everyone up to speed, Inchainge provided all participants with Mastering the Circular Economy, a textbook by Ed Weenk and Rozanne Henzen, before the program's start. This also brought value to people who have yet to become experienced with circularity by getting them up to speed with the basics and some key concepts.

“When I received the book with the chocolate, I had the feeling that this was going to be a very good and thought through program that I am going to attend, so it was a very good start.”

"The book was useful during the game, and I used it as a reference and introduction to the topic.”

The in-game glossary helped the team speak a common language when implementing circularity. That was essential for team alignment because each participant was in charge of their department. They also needed key insights from their colleagues to achieve the desired results.

“Don’t think in silos. Within the game, people had access to all the information they needed. The glossary that you had was immensely helpful. Especially in a vague topic about sustainability where everyone thinks that they know something and there are different explanations for everything, it is important to get it clear at the beginning.”

Taking The Blue Connection Experience One Step Further

After successfully participating in the Circularity Hands-On program, the home appliances company integrated The Blue Connection into its yearly graduates' program. Next to the immersive gameplay and deep dives, a key aspect of this training was contextualization: building the bridge between the circular business simulation game and the home appliances company's products, initiatives, and projects.

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