Companies combining circular economy and design highlighted in September

It’s probably fair to call it a tradition, when an event is being held for the fifth time? Once again, our Design Forum Talk <3 Circular Economy event took place during Helsinki Design Week. The event was held online this year, too, making it easily accessible to international audiences and speakers, as well.

Over the years, we have continued our exploration of the combination of circular economy and design and reached new depths. This time, we highlighted new types of business and operational concepts emerging from circular economy, which all emphasised design.

The event was kicked off by Marika Ollaranta from Business Finland, where she leads the bio and circular economy programme. Business Finland supports companies in the transition towards more sustainable activities and a more sustainable future, among other things. This way, Business Finland is also doing its part in implementing the national circular economy roadmap. The objective is to create viable innovation ecosystems and help companies in networking and becoming more international.

Ylva is a real estate and restaurant service company owned by the Student Union of the University of Helsinki. Ylva owns several valuable pieces of real estate in central Helsinki, the profits from which it uses to produce services for its owners, i.e. students. Sustainable development is essential to Ylva’s operations. Antti Ruuska from Ylva talked about the need to change companies’ operating logic from only seeking profits towards producing value and significance. Ylva is implementing this logic in large-scale ongoing construction projects as well as the rest of its operations.


The Swedish brand design company Grow has conducted comprehensive research on the value chains of entire products or services. Even if product packaging is recyclable, that alone is not enough: there must be a possibility to refine the packaging as a raw material or for re-use. Kinge Gardien presented the Future of Packaging project by Grow, which develops new, sustainable packaging innovations. One of them is the Yangi packaging concept consisting of packaging made from dry-moulded cellulose. The material is competitively priced compared to plastic and it can be recycled as new, waterproof packaging up to seven times.

Another example of a circular economy-based material innovation is the already familiar Infinited Fiber Company from Finland presented by Kirsi Terho. The technology developed by the Infinited Fiber Company can be used to dissolve any cellulose-based material, from old cotton clothes to cardboard, and then reform it to make new fibres. The fibres can then be spun into yarn and woven into fabric. The Infinited Fiber Company has piqued the interest of numerous large fashion brands and cooperation partners in the new material.


Yet another company striving to meet the challenges of the textile industry is Dutch brand MUD Jeans, which was presented at the event by one of the founders, Danique Gunning. MUD Jeans are made from ecological cotton according to fair production principles, and the customer may return the jeans to the company, which will recycle them to make new jeans. An even more interesting new innovation is the jeans-for-rent service, where a customer can have the use of jeans for less than 10 euros per month. The wearer will own the jeans after one year of use – or the jeans can be recycled. The idea is to make circular economy easy and encourage consumers to engage in it to make it work.

The last speaker of the afternoon was Michiel Cornelissen from the Dutch Kode21 design agency. Kode21’s entire operation is based on the concept of climate-positive design that produces solutions that are better for the environment, but also generate economic benefits. This win-win situation encourages companies to truly use more sustainable solutions. The agency has a comprehensive take on sustainability: the approach is multifaceted and open-minded, the idea is to examine the whole, instead of focusing on the details. A green roof on a hospital serves as a recreation space, helps collect rainwater, produces salad for the canteen and alleviates climate issues.


The afternoon was moderated by one of Finland’s top circular economy experts, Anne Raudaskoski from Ethica Oy. Ethica has comprehensive expertise in the various areas of design based on circular economy. It has also served as a cooperation partner in several Design Forum Finland projects.

Design Forum Talk <3 Circular Economy was held in cooperation with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Finland and it was part of the Helsinki Design Week programme.

The recording of the event is available here.


Anne Veinola
Communications Specialist
Design Forum Finland

Photos 1–2: Ylva
Photos 2–3: Yangi / Grow