How and why SMEs are driving the circular economy

By Rien Otto


Dutch aWEARness is a small company. We make work wear and corporate wear. We embody the core values and methods of the circular economy. All our products are made in a way such that, after they have been worn, they can be recycled into a new yarn or fabric that can be used to make new clothing. And so the circular process goes on: turning waste into resource. We are a start-up that began by exploring the unknown. Unlike large corporations, we don’t think that we know everything; and we accept that. SMEs create knowledge as they progress; and this knowledge is something larger businesses can use and profit from.

So what is the business vision of Dutch aWEARness towards the circular economy?

Firstly, we are able to:

  • very quickly translate an idea into a tangible product / service;

  • give a very clear vision without having to make complex plans;

  • to listen, to learn and to build a close relationship with our customers;

  • fail, and see this as part of a learning process.

Secondly, we:

  • learn by doing;

  • take advantage of new opportunities to learn;

  • create networks;

  • make time to play.

Thirdly, we.

  • make time to spend on new projects, services and ideas;

  • discuss ideas with partners without constraints;

  • share knowledge;

  • create a budget and invest it in the future;

  • get out of our comfort zone;

  • build a culture of full transparency;

  • create new innovations.

We can learn from large companies, with their culture of professionalism and financial discipline. But they were small once; and not all of them remember what they learned when they were starting up. We can teach them how to work together and share knowledge. So, my advice to the large corporations is to follow the SME lead and build these principles and those of the circular economy into your culture and into your business model. It will help us make a better world together.

Finally, every startup needs a measure of luck, so that’s what I wish all my startup colleagues: the very best of luck!