Walter Stahel, architect and industrial analyst, argues that the circular economy should be considered a framework: as a generic notion, the circular economy draws on several more specific approaches that gravitate around a set of basic principles.
Walter Stahel sketched in his 1976 research report to the European Commission ‘The Potential for Substituting Manpower for Energy’, co-authored with Genevieve Reday, the vision of an economy in loops (or circular economy) and its impact on job creation, economic competitiveness, resource savings, and waste prevention. Credited with having coined the expression “Cradle to Cradle” in the late 1970s, Stahel worked at developing a “closed loop” approach to production processes and created the Product Life Institute in Geneva more than 25 years ago. It pursues four main goals: product-life extension, long-life goods, reconditioning activities, and waste prevention. It also insists on the importance of selling services rather than products, an idea referred to as the ‘functional service economy’, now more widely subsumed into the notion of ‘performance economy’. Stahel argues that the circular economy should be considered a framework: as a generic notion, the circular economy draws on several more specific approaches that gravitate around a set of basic principles.
Watch the video above to listen to Stahel talk about the performance economy.
Walter Stahel is an alumni of ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich, where he received his diploma in architecture in 1971; Founder-director of The Product-Life Institute Geneva, since 1983. Vice-secretary general and director of risk management research of the Geneva Association (International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics), since 1987.
In 2005, Stahel was appointed as a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences of the University of Surrey, Guildford, for the period 1 September 2005 to 31 August 2008. The appointment has been renewed for another three years, to 31 August 2011. Also in 2005, Stahel was nominated by Ministerpräsident Oettinger as a member of the Verbraucherkommission Baden-Wüttemberg, Stuttgart. Among his publications: the Performance Economy (2006) and The Limits to Certainty, facing risks in the new Service Economy (1989/92, with Orio Giarini).
The Product-Life Institute Geneva, founded 1983, is the oldest established consultancy in Europe devoted to developing sustainable strategies and policies; with partner institutes in Tokyo and Vienna. The Geneva Association, established 1973, is the world’s leading think-tank on economic and risk issues concerning the insurance sector, financed by its members, the CEOs of the eighty biggest insurance and reinsurance companies worldwide.
* A good summary of his career and work is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_R._Stahel