News In Context

Key Takeaways From DLD Circular

Senior executives from large corporates, consultants, startups, a women’s luxury ready-to-wear and accessories designer, an architect, a composer, artists, writers, and a film director were among those who spoke at the DLD Circular conference in Munich September 7 about the urgent need to move to a circular economy and the actions and innovations that could get us there.
The good news, speakers from McKinsey told the audience, is that it is possible for Europe to move to net zero at zero net cost but only if action is taken now. McKinsey consultants outlined the findings of the consultancy’s December 2020 report, The Path To Net Zero: How to Reach Climate Neutrality in Europe, which modeled every industry in Europe and every use of energy and found what carbon neutral means for it. The consultancy is following up by releasing a report on September 10 that focuses specifically on industries in Germany.

“It can be done, we have the technology and the means to de-carbonize,” said speaker Stefan Helmcke, a co-leader of McKinsey’s global sustainability practice. But, he said every year that Europe fails to take action will make doing so more expensive.

The report found that moving to net zero could add five million jobs in Europe, in areas such as building and energy but cautioned that many other jobs will be eliminated, leaving a portion of the population with no path forward unless the transition is well planned and organized.

“The good news is we are moving in the right direction,” said McKinsey senior partner Solveigh Hieronimus.  “However, we do think we are moving too slow.”

 The current rate of change must be tripled in the next 10 years if Europe is to meet its ambitious 2050 target, she said.

“Acceleration is so important because if we don’t and we still want to achieve that target it is only logical that the end will be rather dramatic,” warned Hieronimus. ” A cliff of stark tradeoffs. We will switch off to what kind of production system, what kind of energy system, and what will it mean to the livelihood of the people and to the competitiveness of European industry? These are complex tradeoffs. We need to understand so we can actually manage them.”

Speakers from European companies BMW, the conference’s host, E.ON and Telefonica outlined the steps they are taking to go green. (For more on E.ON’s efforts see The Innovator’s Interview OF The Week With DLD Circular speaker E.ON Executive Board Member Victoria Ossadnik, who is responsible for the Group’s digital technology and in-house consulting.)

While the onus is on established industries to take responsibility on averting climate change, startups and consumers also have a role to play. (See this week’s Profits With A Purpose story about how Ikea plans to make it easier for consumers to adopt renewable energy , control their energy use, and send power back to the grid)

 At the DLD Circular conference startups spoke about how they are engaging consumers to adopt more sustainable practices. Simpliigood, which claims to be the first company to develop and operate a technology for high-quality, cost-effective large-scale production of fresh Spirulina biomass in compliance with international food-safety standards, talked about how it is addressing malnutrition and food insecurity as well as the protein gap and implications of industrialized food, including environmental footprint and ecological life cycle of food products.  

Two other startups talked about how they are using technology-driven circular marketplaces to stamp out food waste, the third biggest emitter of global greenhouse emissions.

One,, which targets producers, wholesalers and using artificial intelligence for match-making and local processing of surplus food. It constantly learns and uses patterns to understand why food surpluses occur in the supply chain. Supply and demand of potential buyers are matched to enable a demand-driven and speedy redistribution of surpluses. In addition, processes surplus food into new products that are returned to the retail shelves – for example, ketchup or tomato soup made from surplus tomatoes.  

Oddbox , connects to producers to collect fruit and vegetables that are too big, too small or too imperfect to be sold in supermarkets, boxes them along with recipes and information about the impact on the climate of preventing ood waste, and sells them to consumers.  CEO Emily Vanpoperinghe said the five-year-old company has already prevent 15,000 tons of produce from going to waste.

Refurbed, another startup presenting at DLD Circular, is addressing the fastest growing waste stream: electronics. It operates an online marketplace for refurbished electronics that are tested and renewed, preventing valuable resources from ending up in landfills. The products they sell are cheaper than new, and come with a warranty,

“Disruptive technologies can be a major driver for reaching climate goals and for implementing sustainability into our strategies and value chains and of course for running a circular economy,” noted DLD founder Steffi Czerny.

“To me circularity is an incredible vision, it’s a moonshot, a common goal, a mission,” Czerny told the hybrid audience. “Moonshots are always hopelessly ambitious. Putting the first human on the Moon seemed an unachievable goal of the 1960s but it did happen before the end of the decade, it happened because this ambitious goal had the power to unite different stakeholders to collaborate at scale, to foster partnerships between the public sector, science, and business and to get citizens like you and me involved. The enthusiasm trickled down to every aspect of business and society, from fashion to education to pop culture….  It is a catalyst for a necessary transformation we can no longer deny. It is vital for the future of our planet. “

Czerny talked about the importance of including artists, writers, and film makers into the conversation, as storytelling helps people visualize the consequences of action or inaction.

Storytelling around climate change can take the form of either cautionary tales or roadmaps to an aspirational future, explained speaker Liam Young, a film director.

He shared a film he directed that painted both types of futures: a dystopian one in which 10 million people live in a single sinister urban setting called Planet City or a world in which nature is allowed to flourish, urban sprawl is limited and cutting edge technologies are used to achieve sustainability.

“Planet City is not a proposal,” Young told the audience. “It is a provocation, a thought experiment. If we can imagine [green] systems working at the scale of billions, then the only thing standing in the way of rewiring and consolidating our existing cities is ourselves and our own biases and politics and prejudice.”  The film, he said, was meant to “visualize our possible worlds and visualize where we all might want to go next.”

To watch videos of the DLD Circular sessions click here.



Apple Car Executive Defects To Ford

An executive with responsibility for Apple’s secretive car project has left for Ford in a stinging departure that potentially spells the end of the iPhone maker’s automotive ambitions. Doug Field, who joined Apple in 2018 as vice-president for special projects from Tesla, will become Ford’s chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer with immediate effect, the Michigan-based carmaker announced on September 7. Field will lead Ford’s development of its cloud-based platform for a next generation of connected vehicles and report directly to chief executive Jim Farley.

Hyundai Unveils Hydrogen-Powered Concept Vehicles

At its aptly named Hydrogen Wave Forum this week, Hyundai unveiled multiple hydrogen-powered concept vehicles, as well as a strategy for building up its presence in the hydrogen space.

Bosch and Nikola Sign Deal For Hydrogen Fuel Cell Modules

Electric truck developer Nikola has inked a new agreement with Bosch for its hydrogen fuel cell modules. The modules will be used to power two of Nikola’s hydrogen-fueled semi-trucks, the short-haul Nikola Tre and Nikola Two sleeper.

Chinese Driverless Car WeRide Launches Robovan For Autonomous Deliveries

Chinese autonomous driving start-up WeRide has partnered with automaker Jiangling Motors  and delivery firm ZTO Express  to commercialize and mass produce the “Robovan”, a self-driving cargo van..


Mastercard Makes A Big Bet On Crypto

Mastercard has agreed to acquire blockchain analytics start-up CipherTrace, in the latest sign of how major companies are warming to cryptocurrencies.The payments giant said September 9 that it entered into an agreement to buy CipherTrace for an undisclosed amount. Based in Menlo Park, California, CipherTrace develops tools that help businesses and law enforcement root out illicit digital currency transactions. The company’s competitors include New York-based Chainalysis and London start-up Elliptic

UK Insurtech Firm Using Machine Learning To Beat Incumbents Raises $85 Million

Marshmellow, a U.K.-based car insurance provider providing a new approach to car insurance aimed at using a wider set of data points and clever algorithms to net a more diverse set of customers and provide more competitive rates, raised  $85 million in a new round of funding which valued the company at $1.25 billion. The firm, which is authorized by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority, touts its use of machine learning to tailor policies for customers as a key advantage over incumbents in the industry like Admirel and Axa.

Central Banks Of Honduras And Guatemala Eye Digital Currencies As El Salvador Launches Bitcoin

The central banks of Honduras and Guatemala are eying digital currencies, officials said on Wednesday, following El Salvador’s adoption of bitcoin as legal currency.The central bank presidents for Honduras and Guatemala both said the banks were studying digital currencies with the aim of eventually introducing them into the economy, including via a central bank digital currency.


Shanghai Plans Data Exchange To Help Boost Efficiency In Manufacturing

China’s business hub Shanghai city is planning to set up a data exchange to help boost efficiency in the manufacturing industry as the city seeks to promote the digitalisation of supply chains, vice mayor Wu Qing said September 9.


Virtual Reality Puts Drug Researchers Inside The Molecules They Study

The Wall Street Journal reports that a growing number of drug-discovery researchers are using VR to see, in new ways, the molecules they have long studied on computer screens. Their goal is to investigate subtle changes in the distance, shape and chemical properties of atomic structures that could give them clues about how well a drug might work and speed up the drug discovery process.


ENGIE and Google Sign 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy Supply Agreement

ENGIE and Google signed a 24/7 carbon-free energy supply agreement in Germany. The three-year agreement will contribute to Google’s 2030 Carbon-Free Energy (CFE) target for its data centers, cloud regions and offices worldwide.  Under the terms of the agreement, ENGIE will assemble and negotiate an energy portfolio to supply Google with renewable power (solar and wind) to ensure that all its German operations are nearly 80% carbon-free by 2022. This is a first-of-a-kind in Europe where a company is guaranteeing carbon-free power supply 24/7 on an annual basis from solar and wind generation. Altogether, ENGIE will supply Google with 140 MW of renewable electricity. ENGIE will also provide comprehensive energy management services including sourcing of residual supply, balancing pool management, grid management, and more.

Siemens Gamesa Claims First Recyclable Wind Turbine Blade

Siemens Gamesa says it has developed the first offshore wind turbine blades that can be fully recycled, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of the bulky objects from landfill and resolving an issue long highlighted by the industry’s critics.

Study Compares Energy Consumption of Digital Ledger Technologies

A research report by University College London (UCL) that examined the varying environmental impacts of six different distributed ledger technologies (DLT), found that Hedera Hashgraph boasts the lowest overall energy consumption of the group. Algorand, Cardano, Ethereum 2.0, Hedera Hashgraph, Polkadot, and Tezos were compared, with researchers from UCL’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies considering how second-generation consensus models such as Proof-of-Stake perform when compared with their predecessors (such as Proof-of-Work).


Food Sharing App Olio Raises $43 Million To Help Businesses Reduce Waste

Community sustainability service Olio has raised $43 million in a Series B round. The free app connects neighbours to neighbours and facilitates the sharing of surplus food and a wide variety of other items. The funding is a major boost for the startup’s much larger ambitions, including helping businesses reduce their food waste. To date, Olio has raised $53.1 million. Counting over 5 million users in 50 countries around the globe, Olio has saved 25 million food items and 3 million non-food items end up in the trash. Currently, its Food Waste Heroes program, an initiative that helps food businesses and restaurants achieve zero food waste, has over 30,000 trained members of individual communities who collect and redistribute unsold or unserved food from some 2,700 stores. Participants include Pret A Manger, Compass Catering, Costa Coffee and Elior, and last year major grocer Tesco signed on.


Whole Foods To Adopt Amazon’s Cashierless Technology

Whole Foods announced they are adding Amazon’s cashierless technology to two stores in 2022. In the announcement, the retailer says Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology will be an “option” for customers in their Washington, D.C.’s Glover Park and Sherman Oaks, California locations.

Facebook Announces Its First Smart Glasses

Facebook launched its first smart glasses on Sept. 9 in a step toward its aim of offering true augmented-reality spectacles. The glasses, which were created in partnership with Ray-Ban maker EssilorLuxottica  allow wearers to listen to music, take calls or capture photos and short videos and share them across Facebook’s services using a companion app. Facebook said the glasses line, called “Ray-Ban Stories,” would start at $299.

About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.