Making The Circle Bigger

WORDS Steve Smith PHOTOS Supplied

With their goal of making South Africa the gateway for the circular economy in Africa, the Circular Squared Collective is a new initiative that VISI is proudly partnering with.

We’re killing our planet and, therefore, ourselves… We know this, right? Our consumerism-driven modern society has reached that tipping point where we not only have to make a change, but we have to do it now.

Central to this change is upending our traditional system of consumption – that linear process that extracts raw materials and turns them into commodities to be consumed in the retail space, which we then throw away.

Circular Squared Collective

Circular Squared shares a different vision. As part of a global shift to a circular economy, this local collective’s mission is to extend the life cycle of products and reduce waste to a minimum through an interwoven system that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling. And if you think Circular Squared is operating out of a commune in the Knysna forest, think again: it’s a collective of heavy hitters in the South African design, architecture, tech, brand- development and supply-chain spaces. Founders Sean Weldon (Innovation Group, BrandKonnect,, Zulfiq Isaacs (Liquid Thought) and Brad Armitage (&Union, Vida e Caffè, Habitus) are supported by an advisory board that includes strategic adviser Tim Harris (former CEO of Wesgro) and philanthropist and social investment leader Victoria Engelhorn.

The Mission

The aim is to apply the principles of a circular economy to the African context through thought leadership, education and scalable retail ventures. Fundamentally, it’s about advancing the idea that everyone is a designer, and that meaningful design can be a transformative tool.

Simply put, we have the potential to design a better world – and all the tools we need are already available. From the manner in which we produce and consume to our relationship with our planet, we have been equipped with the necessary skills to address the planet’s pressing issues. All we require is the desire to make the right choices.


SUSTAINABLE DESIGN WEEK AFRICA The inaugural annual event will be held in September this year at the V&A Waterfront. It will include a three-day Circular Summit to inspire circular thinking, foster the circular community, challenge designers and producers, and share learnings.

CIRCULAR COLLECTION To be launched at Sustainable Design Week 2024, the Circular Collection will be the first circular retail exhibition in Africa, featuring a curated mix of eco-conscious retailers selling leading sustainable products. In a nutshell, it will be an omni-channel marketplace for circular goods.

TRAINING PROGRAMME In alignment with the small and growing business development organisation Black Umbrellas, a partner entity within the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, Circular Squared is developing a Circular Economy Module for the Black Umbrellas SME training programme. Created by Heath Nash, acclaimed product designer and head of sustainable design at Circular Squared, the module centres on design as the lynchpin of the circular economy. This course will be the first recognised authority for circular economy accreditation on the African continent.

PARTNERING WITH THE V&A All of this will coincide with the launch of a plastics-focused innovation lab and makerspace for product development and prototyping, built at the V&A Waterfront.

PLANQ’ING As global leaders in circular design, Dutch sustainable furniture brand Planq will be Circular Squared’s guests in SA during February, sharing their best practices.

PARTNERING WITH VISI Through our print and digital channels, we will be spreading the word to promote Circular Squared’s message and its programmes. They’ll be planting the seeds – we’ll be actively watering them. Whether you’re a seasoned designer, a young product designer, a complete newcomer to the field, or just someone interested in design – and if you’re reading this, you clearly are – then join the circle. We are all equipped with the mind-set required to become agents of change and play a positive role in the planet’s future. Let’s add impeccable design thinking to that mission-critical mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

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