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The AmCham Business Breakfast titled “Green + Digital = Circular. Here and Now” took place in a rather different atmosphere of Ljubljana castle and focused on the circular economy that is no longer the future but has become reality. The participants agreed that we must position Slovenia on the map not only as a green reference country in digital Europe but also as a leading country on the circular platform. That Slovenia should become the center of the world’s circular agenda is a guide to inspire all our future endeavors.

Since the AmCham Business Breakfast was the introductory event to the Circular Change international conference, the hostess of the Breakfast, Ladeja Godina Košir, MSc, Leader of Circular Change and Co-Chair of the AmCham Circular and Sharing Economy Committee first remembered that in the previous year, we spoke about what circular economy even is and today, we talk about how to implement circular models into our business. “It all comes to innovation, cooperation, and new partnerships, and it shifts from products towards services,” said Mrs. Godina Košir and thus opened a very interesting debate.

Digitalization is making a circular economy possible, especially in Slovenia, where green is in our DNA; that is why Slovenia must become a new leading country in the shift towards the circular economy,” stressed Mrs. Godina Košir, and Mrs. Nevenka Kržan, President of AmCham Slovenia, expressed the same thought in her speech. “The rules of the game are changing and new models of the circular economy are opening the world of numerous new opportunities. New models teach us that we can only succeed if we work together. In Slovenia, we already made it clear that we know how to work together, how to build partnerships for a sustainable and better future. Moreover, Slovenia is just the perfect size to be the first country to try these new models of cooperation and business. Slovenia is the country that already brings to the world green and circular stories”, said Mrs. Kržan.

Slovenia has many examples of good practice

Maja Johannessen, Government and Cities Associate, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, reported that an average European car is parked for 92 % of the time, that 31 % of prepared food goes to waste, and that an average office is not used between 50 and 65 % of the time, including business hours. “These are all business opportunities that we have to seize. Change encourages current business opportunities. Price risk, supply risk, and regulatory trends, as well as new distribution schemes, cultural exchanges, and urbanization drive the change. These are all opportunities for new business models,” said Mrs. Johannesson and added that there are many examples of good practice in Slovenia that should be discussed. “We already have solutions, we now have to spread them”, she said.

Janko Kramžar, Director, Snaga Javno podjetje d.o.o., explained that there was a big difference between our usage and the quantity of natural resources available and asked if we were smart enough to reach a joint agreement on resources that should not be used, on production, and reuse. He pointed out that it was extremely important for all to act in a sustainable manner even in our personal lives. “We are trying to show people that we do not need everything we think we do. Some say that this is bad for business but I believe that this is the right direction”, told Mr. Kramžar and added that 50 years ago, Snaga was just a waste removal company but today, it has achieved the greatest percentage of separated waste in the EU.

Services, linked to products, are the future

Peter Hajdu, Managing Director, Central Eastern Europe, CISCO explained that today we speak about one of the most important revolutions – the 4th industrial revolution – and that in it, the internet plays the role of one of the most democratic forms of doing business because there we are all equal and from there on, the economy is formed. “Today, providing proper information is worth a fortune.  Just look at Airbnb or Uber, companies that do not have funds”, said Mr. Hajdu and added that in a few years, companies would no longer gain their earnings through their products but through services linked to those products. “And what is the best platform for this? I believe that it is no longer countries but cities. The cities represent the platform that will seek solutions and bring countries onwards”, said Mr. Hajdu.

Marko Guček, CEO, GoOpti, who is well acquainted with digital platforms and the transformation of business models into circular ones, explained that in his company, they were trying to stimulate the circular economy and to listen to peoples’ needs. “In GoOpti, we recognized the lack of connectivity since people travel from and to airports and around the world all the time. We made it possible for them to stay connected. By doing so, we also gave them time, which is essential today”, he added.

The digital transformation is forcing us to become more circular

As key note speakers, Tjaša Ficko, Deputy Mayor of Ljubljana, and Franc Matjaž Zupančič, State Secretary in the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, also spoke at the AmCham Business Breakfast. Mrs. Ficko explained that Ljubljana already is a circular capital city but that one must go even further and always seek new solutions. “It is thus very important to educate and inform people. We also learn, share and try to fulfill our promises”, said the Deputy Mayor. Mr. Zupančič added that the circular economy is our future because life will force us to change. “Even the digital transformation that we are facing right now is forcing us to become more and more circular. This is an opportunity for Slovenia to become a country as circular as possible. The Slovenian Government is fully committed to the circular economy – business must be viable and sustainable”, said Mr. Zupančič.

At the end all speakers at the AmCham Business Breakfast pledged to do something by the next year’s Breakfast and conference, where we will check if they fulfilled their pledges. Mrs. Maja Johannessen pledged to try to create more opportunities for cities at the foundation. Mr. Peter Hajdu pledged that in Cisco, they would cooperate even more closely, as did Mr. Marko Guček. He added: ”We also wish to expand and to change the way skeptics think.” Mr. Kramžar expressed his wish to live a more sustainable and active life, and to realize Snaga’s goal to extract from waste 80 % of renewable materials. “We will act responsibly and connect with other participants,” he added.

Circular Cases:

“It is not easy to solve the problem of waste if we want society to live sustainably. The circular economy is not the same as waste separation. The circular economy represents a complete change of business models. Waste separation focuses partially on the recycling of materials and partially in the recycling of energy. At Snaga, we issue a brochure every year to show people how to be more responsible consumers; we have also opened the Re-use center.” Janko Kramžar, Snaga

“We developed Urbanscape – a comprehensive solution for green roofs. We are now thinking about how to make even more and to become even more circular. We are also discussing technology, green roofs, landscape projects, and horticulture. In Slovenia, we began with green models 4 years ago and today, green infrastructure is a world trend.” Jure Šumi, Knauf Insulation

“The recycling concept is implemented in our business models and I can say that we are in a processing business. We are developing new business models based on reuse – i.e. how to reuse waste industry produced warmth for district heating.” This is our product and I believe that it represent a good example for other companies as well.” Denis Mancevič, SIJ