Circular Economy: an Economic Potential for Businesses

Concepts like the new caring economy introduced last week through the voice of Ji Xun are not new or abstract terms within China’s short and long-term plans. These plans also include sustainable development and circular economy. The circular economy concept is based on three principles: design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate the natural system. This week we are going to explore it with another woman entrepreneur, Alizee Ccm.  

Founder and CEO of Zerowaste Shanghai, she went all-in investing in sustainability and circular economy business, believing in the potential of this economic model for the global future. Fully trusting the power of communities, through communication and interaction with the public, she and her team help companies improve their environmental practices. 

- Talk about your experience in China and how this idea started in the first place

In 2014, during my last semester of study, I did my thesis about the circular economy in the fashion industry. While investigating the topic, I got in touch with the supporting vibe of development in China. I found here a very open environment for startups, compared to Europe, with Shanghai as the pilot city. The energy and the push of things moving forward here were the drivers that made me choose to move permanently. With time, this became the project that I called Zerowaste Shanghai. We began with workshops spreading the knowledge of the circular economy to entrepreneurs and companies. Later on, in 2019, we grew organically with a team into a broader range of services: corporate training programs, seminars, and workshops. 

In 2020 we expanded and created online programs in English and Chinese where we build awareness about circular economy and sustainability. 

- How do you think this trend is evolving in China?

The awareness and the understanding of the circular economy are growing among businesses here. The government is putting a strong focus on three macro areas: energy, mobility, waste. China is the largest solar power producer and investor and one of the electric vehicle market leaders. Here the waste market has a high monetary value. Opportunities for a startup in this field are solid and I see it as a positive trend. 

- Which aspects did you find challenging in relating sustainability to the Chinese public?


The ecosystem is getting constructed now: infrastructures are in their early stage even though growing at a high speed. With Zero Waste Shanghai (ZWS) we are in the content and awareness part. In the first years, it was very hard, but now after 2020, more Chinese companies are coming to us eager to have deeper knowledge in the field. 

The catches we have to leverage need to be emotional: you have to speak their language. People have a pragmatic approach; this is why our story-telling in China had to be shifted, for example, from the Amazon forest to the health impact on the individuals. 

- If a foreign company involved in sustainability would like to expand their market in China, what are your suggestions?

My advice is to focus on your products, the core of what you are selling. Deep research on their perception of the Chinese public is required. Additionally, marketing is essential, so it is fundamental to put a good wrap around them, suitable for the target users you are aiming to get. 

Make a connection, make the products relatable to them. Find the emotional trigger: a pragmatic approach and relation with being a good citizen are some of the catches we focus on at ZWS. 

As we have been learning during this pandemic, a circular economy includes an adaptation of our traditional system, allowing our economy to become more resilient and sustainable, for the planet as well as for us.

Designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems implies shifting the system: a commitment that involves all the parts: businesses, individuals, and, fore and foremost, institutions. 

Infrastructure-wise, China is putting a tremendous effort with the aim to be one of the first world countries with zero emission by 2060, creating Smart Cities built upon a circular model. Shenzhen and other Chinese cities are on the road to becoming internationally recognized beacons of a successful transition to a circular economy structure. 

Thanks to Alizee and her team we had the opportunity to understand that the circular economy in China is not only possible but also a place where innovation and resilient ideas can find their place, with the support of a solid marketing strategy and well-targeted communication.

You can find more about the circular economy in China on the links below or find us at to explore the best strategy for you.

Stay tuned for the next interview!

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