Sabine Lettmann & Pia Schmoeckel, From Global Problem to Local Solution - How a Future Directed Circular Economy Can Foster Social Change

Helsinki Environmental Humanities Forum, 8 February 2022, TUESDAY 14.00-15.30 (Helsinki time, Eastern European Time) via ZOOM

Register here for ZOOM link until February 7. Link will be shared shortly before the event. 


While the concept of circular economy primarily addresses material flows, its potential impact is not necessarily limited to environmental and economic aspects but can further serve as a powerful driver for social change. Exploring a shift to circular systems intertwined with an active formation of multicultural and inclusive communities, this case study investigates five entrepreneurial projects from across Europe. Whilst focusing on craftsmanship as an underpinned method of design activism and social design for social change, all projects work with refugees, disabled people or migrants. Through interviews and surveys with project leads, business structures, product development and manufacturing were investigated to identify how these support local, social movements. Moreover, similarities in the strengths of a social circular economy, as well as obstacles limiting growth and business resilience, are highlighted. Overall, overcoming the diverse limitations arguably depends on shared responsibility between political engagement and the wider community. Drawing from these investigations, the principle of an Entrepreneurial Social Circular Business Toolbox is proposed. The adaptation of this basic framework supports the facilitation of business development where social change becomes the heart of circular business models instead of being a side effect only.


Sabine Lettmann is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Jewellery, Fashion and Textiles at Birmingham City University with international teaching experience in fashion concept development, circular design systems as well as in costume design. Since 2001, she works as a freelance fashion designer and consultant which influences her research interests around the subject of circular fashion and design education.

With a background in Psychology, Pia Schmoeckel is interested in topics surrounding behavioural change and public policy, motivated to increase health-enhancing, and socially benefitting behaviour. Currently, she is working for the Policy and Strategy Unit of the Government in Western Cape Town, passionate to address global challenges with human-centred and social approaches. In September, Pia will pursue a MSc in Behavioural Science from the London School of Economics.