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Elin Bergman

Elin Bergman is known for being the Circular Economy Queen of Sweden.

She is one of the co-founders of the Nordic Circular Hotspot a collaboration platform for accelerating circular economy in the region, and is also the COO and spokesperson of the Swedish circular economy network Cradlenet.

She worked for 8 years as WWF Sweden’s circular economy expert, where she developed the international circular economy network Baltic Stewardship Initiative, to enable the recirculation of nutrients in the Baltic Sea region in the agri-food sector.

She has previous experience as Marketing and Communications Manager at the sustainability consultancies Tricorona and Respect.

Listen to the episode

Tune in to find out about:


  • Elin and her background and experience in sustainability initiatives.
  • The Nordic perspective on sustainability.
  • How the Cradle to Cradle idea is part of the foundation of a circular economy.
  • The Nordic Circular Hotspot's initiatives and communication strategies to increase public awareness of the circular economy.
  • Cradlenet’s aim to accelerate Sweden's transition to a circular economy.
  • The importance of networks and bringing people together to make a positive change.
  • Why consumers are not the focus of the circular economy transition, instead, it's about making changes at the policy and systemic level.
  • Why digitisation is one of the keys to achieving a circular economy for example it enables sharing platforms to exist.
  • The challenges for digital technology within the circular economy transition such as the power usage and impact of electronic waste.
  • And much more!


S7E5 Audiogram image

Barry O'Kane  00:09

Hello, and thanks for listening to another episode of HappyPorch Radio. This is season seven. In today's episode, we'll speak to Elin Bergman, who is the Circular Economy Queen of Sweden. She's the CEO of Cradlenet, and Co-founder and Managing Partner of the Nordic Circular Hotspot. Elin is also a top, a LinkedIn top green voice and keynote speaker. And Cradlenet is an amazing non profit organisation, which aims to accelerate Sweden's transition to a Circular Economy. Emily, I really, really liked it in the conversation we had, she was so full of positivity and energy, and also had an amazing list of accomplishments and things that she's done.

Emily Swaddle  00:47

Yeah it a was really cool conversation and really inspiring. For me, I kept thinking, you know, Elin focused most of this conversation on the networks that she's built. And I just was thinking about how integral that is to like, the human nature of getting anything done, is to bring people together. And so we need people like Elin, who put themselves in a position to bring people together. And you know, that's how we're going to make change. That's how we're going to feel good about doing new things. And moving forward is doing it together.

Barry O'Kane  01:20

Yeah, I tried to be all negative at one point and ask her about  the challenges of the Circular Economy and she said she has never seen so much positivity and so much actually, to talk passionately about the policy change of the EU and the impact that's having, and the growth in their stuff and the action she's seeing happening. But I think you're right, I think that is a reflection, not just of our personality, but being part of and being an integral founding part of networks that are enabling and multiplying, and exaggerating. And just being part of that change. It's a pretty exciting story. And I think a really important one for all of us to listen to.

Emily Swaddle  01:48

Yeah, and it was also really nice to have her Nordic perspective on this topic. It's always nice to hear perspectives from different parts of the world. But especially, you know, I think a lot of us have this image of Nordic countries being really progressive, and really far ahead, when it comes to all things sustainability. And to sort of hear, you know, from an insider, that is sometimes the case, and sometimes it's not the case, and that there's actually loads of room to grow, even in these countries where we, we sort of feel that they're ahead of the game.

Barry O'Kane  02:24

Yeah. And hear from somebody who's actually in the act of being part of that movement and change. Yeah, it's really wonderful. Elin shared a little bit of a backstory. And so for those interested, I think it's really encouraging to hear from people who are willing to share their own story as well. For those of us who are in whatever walk of life and whatever career industry we're in, that there's ways to get involved and to be active in change. I am obviously, as the listeners will know, very passionate about that being changed within the software and the digital industry, where I think we have this huge leverage and this huge opportunity to be part of something really positive. And so without any further ado, let's meet Elin.

Elin Bergman  03:04

Hi everybody, my name is Elin Bergman, I run two Circular Economy organisations. One in Sweden, it's one of the oldest Circular Economy organisations in the world, or networks in the world. And the other one is Nordic Circular Hotpsot, which is a collaboration platform to make sure we have a circular economy in the Nordics.

Barry O'Kane  03:23

Awesome, thanks so much. And welcome to HappyPorch Radio. So tell us a little bit more about, just to set the scene - so there's the Nordic Circular Hotspot, tell us a little bit about that. And then we can talk about Cradlenet, your organisation in Sweden.

Elin Bergman  03:34

Sure. Well, I would rather like to start with the Swedish one if I can. 

Barry O'Kane  03:37

Okay, of course.

Elin Bergman  03:38

That's kind of the basis why I started the Nordic Circular Hotspot. So creating that is, like I said, one of the oldest Circular Economy networks in the world. And it gets started as kind of like a book circle, people were reading the book Cradle to Cradle remaking the way we make things and found it so interesting, and wanted to share the facts of the book with the world. So they gathered and talked about it, and then it became into a network called Cradlenet. So people usually ask why, why do we call Cradlenet that instead of the Circular Economy net or something, but it's because of the book. So I don't know. Maybe I should tell the audience a bit about Circular Economy then? Or do they already know everything about Circular Economy before I get started?

Barry O'Kane  04:19

Everything is a bit of exaggeration, but let's assume because we know broadly, what the Circular Economy is. Really interesting that the genesis of that came from the Cradle to Cradle book, actually. So that's interesting. Maybe you can talk a little bit about how closely linked those two things are?

Elin Bergman  04:32

Yeah, so I would say, well, the Cradle to Cradle idea is like the foundation of Circular Economy. I think the brilliance of Circular Economy was that when Ellen MacArthur kind of found the term Circular Economy, more people understood or kind of thought they understood what it was about. because everybody has a relationship with the economy, Cradle to Cradle, people don't really understand. You know, it's a cradle for babies. Yes, Cradle to Cradle is like, when you take something maybe out of the forest, or you make a wood product, and usually you in the linear economy, you just take it, you make it and then you waste it. In the Circular Economy, you take it from the forest, you create a hole in the forest, basically, where there is a lack of nutrients now, and yeah, something is missing, you take that product, you make a wood table, or whatever you do out of it. And if you really make something Cradle to Cradle, it's supposed to go back to the cradle again, at the end of life. So once you’ve worn out this wood table, it's still containing a lot of nutrients, and so on, it's supposed to go back into the forest, otherwise, you can't grow a new tree. And otherwise, it's not Cradle to Cradle than its Cradle to Grave instead, when you destroy the material. So it's about the ecosystem, looping back things into the natural system. That's also about Circular Economy but it's another term. And I think it's a modern term that really attracts more people. And I think that's the brilliance and why I really liked the Circular Economy term, more than Cradle to Cradle because it's much more attractive basically,

Barry O'Kane  06:05

We will also have Cradle to Cradle, as they also have a certification and a structure around the work. There's specific things they do as well. And maybe, for those interested, we'll link those in the show notes for anybody who wants to check out that and the book, which is, as you say, a really good read too. So from Cradlenet, how did the Nordic Circular Hotspot grow?

Elin Bergman  06:23

Well, first of all, Cradlenet is a network for mostly businesses. And you can also be a private member if you want to. But it's the focus on teaching the business sector, the business companies that are members about what Circular Economy is, they can network with each other. We have tonnes of events. And we also try to influence the policy side, we do projects and so on. And that's great. But it's only Sweden, even though we're located nationally in Stockholm, but we also have Cradlenet West and South and North and so on. So it's kind of all over Sweden. So that's been very successful. But when I met a lot of other Nordic people in Amsterdam, at Holland Circular Economy week, we were very frustrated because we were like the grassroot organisations. And it was so much fantastic work going on in the Netherlands at the time, it was the Holland Circular Hotspot, what was initiated by the ministries of the Netherlands. And they really saw that this was fantastic potential for businesses,  for academia, you know, to really make a change in society and Sweden, and then Norway and Denmark and Iceland and Finland at the time, nothing was going on, maybe in Finland, but not the other Nordic countries. So we were extremely frustrated. So when we met, and had the same frustrations, I said, we should have meetings, we should talk about this, maybe we can, you know, start something. And that afterwards turned into the Nordic Circular Hotspot. So we now have managing partners in all Nordic countries, trying to make sure that we are collaborating much, much more over the country borders, and also aligning the political ambitions because right now, Finland is still way ahead of the Nordic countries, they have a fantastic ambitious climate target for the whole nation, they're gonna base the whole economy on circular principles by 2035. And we have nothing similar in the other Nordic countries. So we're lagging behind. So we want to catch up with Finland, of course. So that's one thing we do. But we also were studying different transition groups, where we're kind of clustering different sectors, we have one for the finance sector, for instance, that we're trying to, you know, see if we can find some similar methods or principles for the finance industry to make sure they finance the right business models, the circular business models, of course, because they don't even know how to evaluate a company that has a circular business model today. So, it's a totally different set of rules behind, you know, how a circular company is working, compared to a linear company, because a linear company, if you're a finance institution, you can lend the money. And after three years you're supposed to get the money back to the bank. But a Circular Economy based company, maybe they need 10 years before they can actually get their money back. Because they don't, it's not about just selling things and not caring about them anymore. It's about keeping the ownership and having services. So it's a much, much longer cycle before you can actually get the money back to the bank. So they need to totally redo their system. So this is just one example of how we work in the Nordic Circular Hotspot, we try to get the latest information about what's going on in the Nordics out into the public. We try to influence policy, of course, and make sure that we have good examples for the business sector in different sectors on what they could do and what they should do.

Emily Swaddle  09:35

That's really interesting to hear that sort of collaboration among all the Nordic countries, and I imagine it's actually quite useful to have - I mean, I don't know- is it useful to have Finland as this sort of example of what could be done and maybe even a collaborator in understanding how they got there? And so maybe, you know, helping other Nordic countries along the way, is that a useful partner to have? 

Elin Bergman  09:58

Absolutely. I mean, there are many things that Finland can do better, also, of course, but I think, since there's been kind of like a friendly competition between the Nordic countries, nobody wants to be the worst Nordic country, of course. I think we can use that and make sure, yeah, we're kind of shaming the other Nordic countries into becoming as good as Finland. Think that's a good, good strategy anyway. So we're actually making a big petition right now, that's not Nordic Circular Hotspot, though. That's Cradlenet. We have a big event in the Nordic Sustainability Expo in Stockholm at the 9th and 10th of May. And we're going to do a big petition in a few weeks, where we try to get as many business leaders and resented representatives from academia and anybody who wants to sign basically, to make sure the Nordic countries align the political ambitions with the Finland's. And hopefully, we're going to hand over that petition signed by 1000s and 1000s of people to ministers on the stage at this event. And that's just the first step. And then we can continue doing things like this, until they actually are aligning with Finland's ambitions. So that's the plan we have. 

Emily Swaddle  11:03

I just wanted to sort of rewind a little bit, but the question is also connected to where we are now, I suppose. You mentioned that, at the beginning, the Cradlenet organisation came out of lots of people reading the Cradle to Cradle book and then wanting somewhere to sort of come together and collaborate and making action happen based on it. What sort of people are involved from the beginning? And how has that sort of evolved and grown, based on where you are now?

Elin Bergman  11:29

Yeah, good question. So in the beginning, there was some, like, small intrapreneurs, some researchers and experts in different fields, some design experts, and so on. So they just started and it was mostly kind of, I wouldn't say a low, loose group of people, I think they had some thoughts from the beginning, and so on. The most brilliant thing they did was to invite Ellen MacArthur, who now has the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and it's kind of like the mother of all Circular Economy things. They invited her to Sweden in 2013 to hold the lectures, it was the first time she came to Sweden, as far as I know, to talk about Circular Economy. That was brilliant, because I was in the audience. And I didn't even watch her because she was talking about Circular Economy, it's because I'm a sailor. And I was a big fan of her sailing around the world, breaking world record and everything. And I was blown away, just sitting there listening to what she was saying she was using her boat as, like a likeness of the planet. Like, if the boat is the planet, we only have this amount of food and this amount of water and resources to get around the planet. And if I will just like eat all the food the first day, I will die, I wouldn't make it, you know. So it's the same thing, if we're going to keep wasting the resources we have on this planet, because a lot of them are finite, they're going to end if we don't take care of them, we're going to have a very big problem in the future. So it's about the whole world. World economy is about, like, how can we really take care of the scarce resources we have? And we forget about that sometimes. Sometimes it's about how can we get as much profit out of the economy and the planet as possible. And that's not what the economy is about. And we forget that sometimes. Anyway, so I saw this fantastic lecture with Ellen MacArthur. And after that, I actually booked a meeting with the guy who was then the chairman of Cradlenet, Jeppe Dyrberg. And it's like, I need to meet you. And he was like, Okay, this weird woman, and he had coffee with me, and I just told him, like, I'll do anything, I will polish your shoes, you know, make coffee, whatever you want. But I need to be involved in this. How can I, you know, take part. So the year after in 2014, I got elected into the Board. And the year after I became the chairman myself, so it was quick.  I was just, oh, we should do this and we should do this. And then they said, Well, you can just take over. It's Okay.

Emily Swaddle  13:51

That's really funny. I'd love to see data on, like, the Venn diagram of people who sail and people who are really interested in the Circular Economy, because I really think Ellen MacArthur has done a lot to increase those numbers of overlap.

Barry O'Kane  14:02

I'm also really hearing that passionate energy. I think on LinkedIn there's a statement about describing yourself as a starter and that I can totally see that in what you're describing there and sort of getting involved in things. The sailing you talked about, which is a whole podcast conversation itself, and then starting these things and sort of being part of the Nordic Circular Hotspot as well. One of the challenges that we've talked about on this podcast before is kind of pushing uphill, right. So the Circularity Gap Report came out recently and all the numbers are bad. We have these big, ridiculously big ,challenges. But all your conversations so far have been really wonderfully positive and you're sort of demonstrating by the action you're doing and so on. So I'm wondering if that's, is that a deliberate thing? Are you constantly seeing those things as a positive change that we can make? You describe catching up with Finland and so on. And how do you sort of deal with when it feels like things aren't changing fast enough?

Elin Bergman  14:50

Well, actually, I think things are happening so freaking fast now when it comes to Circular Economy that I'm blown away. I've been doing this for such a long time. Next year, it's 10 years I've been in involved in running Cradlenet. And I have to say that I'm not running Cradlenet and Nordic Circular Hotpost by myself. I mean, we're plenty of people behind it. But still, so many things are changing profoundly on its enormous scale, at the moment that it's, I can't be anything else than super positive. Because right now, for instance, the EU are making enormous changes and making it mandatory, for the first time for companies now for the first time, it's going to start 2014, with large cap companies, or large companies, the largest companies in the European Union, to start mandatorily reporting, not only when it comes to climate, carbon emissions, biodiversity, but also Circular Economy. And the companies are panicking, because they need to know how to report on this, they don't know. And it's as important and mandatory as you know, financial reporting. So it needs to be included. We have so many new companies coming in as members that we hardly had time to take care of them, because everybody wants to know what to do. And the year after 2025, it's going to be the mid-sized companies. And the year after that, it's going to be the small companies. So  all the companies in the European Union are going to, you know, report on this. So it's going to be a huge change. Because they learn how they do things. And they're also going to get measured on how they do things, they need to start acting. So I mean, I always said, like, 15 years back when I was working in different sustainability consultancies, and it was like, the whole energy out of the Cop15 meeting had, like, it was terrible, nothing was happening, you know, all the investments in sustainability companies were just taking out and nobody saw that it we're gonna go to meet any we're going to not going to have a Paris Agreement and so on. It was a totally depressing period. And I always said, it's too late to be a pessimist. I mean, we have to be on the right side of history, right? So it doesn't matter if things are going bad, we still have to, you know, push on. But now it's like, my God, it's so much positive energy and so many actual things happening. There's not only people talking about changes, actually, they are changing. So I mean, I can't be anything else than super positive.

Emily Swaddle  17:11

Love it. Am I right in thinking that Cradlenet does a lot of communications things on social media and events and stuff, right, to reach the public?So you've talked a bit about sort of policy change and about change within businesses? What do you notice about the sort of public perception of the changes happening? Or maybe even the public drive for change to happen?

Elin Bergman  17:35

Well, I would say there's a lot of knowledge when it comes to climate change in both Sweden and the Nordics, and more and more in Europe and the world overall. But when it comes to Circular Economy, I just had the number. So Sweden, but I know it's 17% of the Swedish population know what Circular Economy is. And I would bet today that actually, they don't know. I mean, they probably think it's about recycling things, when you can just scratch the surface, it doesn't matter. Because for me, I always say we shouldn't focus on the consumers, they are always busy. They're picking up kids from school, they're helping with homework and cooking, and, you know, grocery shopping and things. So we shouldn't really focus on the consumers. It's about the EU, for instance, now that're making these enormous changes, because then it kind of demands the companies to change because the consumers, they should not be able to go into a store and buy linear stuff. That's how you change things. Because if the consumers can do wrong, they will do it because they don't know better. They don't have time, I mean we can't really demand people to, you know, work and do all these things, and then actually take up a guide, like what's circular in the store? What should I buy? They don't have time, and I don't even have time and I'm super, you know, engaged in these issues. So we should make it easy to do the right thing basically, for the consumers. So yes, it's good if they know it, and it's good for them. You know, the small, you know, Frontrunners are actually already buying secondhand and right really trying to do the right thing, but it's like 5% of the population. Most of the population say, Oh, I will pay more to do the right thing. But right now we're in, you know, it's an inflation and people are poor. They will just buy the cheapest stuff basically. And that's how it is. So we shouldn't be able to buy anything else than circular and sustainable things. That's the way things should be going.

Barry O'Kane  19:22

And do you think it's only through policy that we can get that sort of change?

Elin Bergman  19:26

No, right now, policy is lagging behind the companies are way, way ahead. I mean, like I said, the EU is like the biggest and strongest environmental organisation on the planet right now. Because what's happening in the EU, it's also affecting the rest of the world, because it's easier for companies to just do whatever, you know, where the regulatory changes are happening. And they would just change the whole thing, because it's easier. So if the EU goes ahead and start something, all the other companies will change as well. So regulatory things are very important. But even before all of this happen, the companies are moving, because they know that they're, I mean, look at the Ukraine, Russia crisis. Now look at the COVID crisis, you can see the supply chains are just being disrupted over and over again, they need to have a secure value chain so they can produce their things. And right now, I mean, many of the materials were coming from Russia, for instance. It's not sustainable. And now that more and more companies are looking into not sourcing things from China, because it's a dictatorship, of course. So I think people in the companies were like, Okay, how can we do this better and more sustainable and more resource efficient? And I mean, there's so many reports and projects coming out saying, you know, how much money you can save, how much resources you can save, how much jobs will be generated, and so on. So it's not, it's a no brainer to go over to circular business models, because it just makes sense.

Barry O'Kane  20:47

Yeah, I remember years ago, when I first got introduced to the idea of Circular Economy, speaking to somebody who said his company was given a Circular Economy award. And  he stood up and sort of accepted the award and he was a bit embarrassed because he didn't do these things because they were circular, because there was sustainability. He did it to help his business because it was more efficient and better for the business. That was the real thing that really sort of makes me think, well, that's a lever that we can, you know, there's the incentives are aligned if we get things right.

Elin Bergman  21:14

Yeah, but speaking of consumers, sometimes, because we are doing a product now with Cradlenet about product as service business models, is when you started the business selling products in a linear way. But now you're looking into how can I instead of selling the product, I keep the ownership of the product, but I will, you know, have a lot of people and maybe companies use my product, but I keep the ownership. So that's a totally different way of doing things. But then in the project, we saw that there's a lot of consumers out there, that are a bit sceptical of trying these new business models or trying this new product or services. And so I think one of the kind of challenges when it comes to consumers, it's, like, how can we make them or not make them? But how can we make it attractive for them to try these new services instead of just keep on buying this linear things. And I think it kind of boils down to economy in the here too, like, if you can see that over time, it's actually cheaper, that you use these products, then then buying a car, for instance, then more people might be able to try it. But also it needs to be more attractive and more simple than actually buying the thing. So that's the big challenge, I think, not only, I mean, it's about communication in the end, and like how you package these services, but I think we will get more and more used to it. Now most people think about like maybe Netflix or Spotify, when they think about like services instead of products. But yeah, now we're coming to the point that there's so many services, especially for TV series, and movies and things that it kind of defeats the purpose from the beginning. So now it's maybe cheaper to start buying DVDs again, and then actually, you know, pay on demand. So that's a big thing that we can't saturate the markets either because then it's going to be more difficult for the consumers again.

Barry O'Kane  23:00

Yeah, so really interesting challenges. Do you have a favourite, like, success story or example in Sweden that you'd like to share or that you feel, like, celebrates all of these things most?

Elin Bergman  23:10

Well, I have fantastic favourite among our members, or I have many fantastic favourites, but we have one company, Accus, because they're making signs for companies like big steel signs mostly, it could be, you know, light neon signs and things as well. And they want to have a circular business model, but before they were just selling the signs, basically. And then they were gone. They didn't know anything more about them. But now they're trying to because you know, signs lasts forever. You just put a vinyl on with the new company logo, and then you can take it back once the company moves or just change the logo. So they're really trying to make sure the companies know that they should give them the sign back so they can make a new sign out of it. But also they're not only trying to sell as much because one of the big things that we usually avoid or forget when it comes to Circular Economy is avoidance, like, do you really need to buy this product in the beginning? So they always asked the consumer or the customer, like, Hey, you have ordered three signs here. But do you really need them, we can see that you have need for two signs. So we will only sell you two signs, even though they make less money. And I think that's, like, amazing. And not many companies would actually do that, they would just sell as much as it can to make the biggest profit. So I think that's a fantastic kind of front runner story to tell. They are also part of our product as a service project. So they're now trying new services as well. And we're gonna launch that in May 9, on the Nordic Sustainability Expo as well. And yeah, and we have another company, Foxway. They're working with IT. They were a very small company five years ago, but now it's a 5 billion Swedish Kronor business now. So it's going really well, because they have a circular business model in place, and really circulate the IT, like mobile phones, computers and things and they take them back, they refurbish them, they sell them almost as new, they look very good. And they do it over and over and over again, really successful as well.

Barry O'Kane  25:07

Outstanding, that's brilliant. We can also share some of the links for those companies, if people want to check them out. One of the things when you're talking about this sort of - do you really need three signs, will only sell you two, that takes a level of maturity in a business, and the people running the business and sort of a real alignment on our purpose as a business isn't just to make money for our shareholders. And so that's for me, that's a really exciting outcome of what our journey they must have been on internally for that kind of change. Or do you think that's, you know, maybe they started with that, but I'm wondering if you see in your membership for the companies you're working with, they kind of, you know, they need to go through a journey like that to reach this place where they're able to have that level of conversation with their clients?

Elin Bergman  25:47

Well, I think all companies have their own different road to come to where they are, we don't really have any thresholds to become members of Cradlenet. We welcome everybody who is kind of agreeing with the purpose of Cradlenet, which is we want to have a Circular Economy in place in Sweden, by 2040, at the latest. So as long as they say, We think that's a good idea to then they are welcome to become members. Anyway, so it could be any company from you know, superlinear ones that haven't even started yet. But as long as they're there, they're members of reasons they want to learn, right? So some of them are like, they haven't even started yet. And then we have really inspiring ones like Accus, Foxway, that I told you about. And I think the meeting between these two maturities, I think is very exciting and interesting as well. We have every Friday, something called Circular Fridays, I think it's kind of unique that we meet our members every single Friday, we have different themes where we invite, like, it could be scientist, it could be experts, it could be the members themselves, that tell us about how they are working on Circular Economy or how they should be working. Like next week, we're talking about CSRD, for instance, what's coming out of the EU and how you should learn. So the companies have the latest information, what's going on, that they should know about. And they also, I mean, it's maybe a lecture and 20-25 minutes, but then they have like half an hour to actually ask them questions. But you can also talk to each other and like, Oh, have you seen this? And Oh, you should read this. And we did this. And I think, like, that's some of the best values. And the times that I'm the most happy is when these meetings happen. And they can say, oh, but we're going to do a project about this, oh, can I take part of the project? And you know, we should collaborate? I love that when that happens. So I don't know if I answered your question, though.

Barry O'Kane  27:36

I think you did. I think you came up with a much better answer than my question.

Emily Swaddle  27:40

I've wanted to note, I don't really have a question. But that is really interesting that we talk hand in hand about these companies that you know, from your example, Barry, that actually aren't doing the Circular Economy stuff because of the sustainability thing. They're doing it because it's genuinely better for business. So there's, like, this, sort of, like, understanding of the Circular Economy as being generating business in the sort of traditional way that we talk about generating income. But then there's also this other side of things, these businesses that are turning around saying no, don't give us more money. Because you don't need this extra resource that we can provide you with. And I sort of love within the Circular Economy framework-there's space for both those things, you know that it doesn't exclude one because they're not at the point of we're willing to turn business down because we understand that those resources aren't necessary. That actually, it's broad enough to include all those sort of business mindsets.

Barry O'Kane  28:38

Just to change gears very slightly. One of the things that I'm, as listeners will know, really passionate about is the role of the software in the digital sector in circularity and circular transition. So I'm interested in, from your point of view, when you see businesses like doing this kind of change or particularly businesses who are the inspirational ones examples you shared? Do you also see them using digital and software tools differently? And is that often part of the journey or the way they're changing their services?

Elin Bergman  29:08

Well, I always say when I'm lecturing, which I do a lot, like digitalization is one of the keys for Circular Economy. And it really is, I mean, if you look at many of the circular, most fantastic examples you see out there like Airbnb, for instance, it's the biggest hotel chain in the world. And they haven't built a single hotel. I mean, it's super resource efficient. They couldn't exist without a digital platform. And it's the same with Uber. And all of these sharing platforms, digitalization is really, really important. So I would say it's like one of the enablers of sustainability and Circular Economy.

Barry O'Kane  29:41

And at the same time, there's a challenge as you mentioned, like meeting with the IT and the company that's taking advantage of circulising, turning like e-waste and looking at reducing the impact there. And we've also, in previous episodes, talked about the power usage and the need to fit all of that in context. But I think that's a really important, relevant point. And that I will probably always be rabbiting on about as I'm sure everybody will know. Just before we finish up, something else I'm interested in is a little bit about your own personal journey. So we talked a little bit about the sailing you went on. And I know you did a big year long sailing adventure. But before that, you also worked with WWF, I think, and other consultancies. So tell us a little bit about that passion about how you've discovered the Circular Economy. But I guess it sounds like this has been a theme throughout your career in your life. Is that right?

Elin Bergman  30:28

Yeah, it is. Apparently, I was very much into, like, nature, but it was David Attenborough kind of movies when I was a kid. And in the beginning, when I was really small, I said, I want to be a nature photographer and do these documentaries. And the thing was, I was always watching them, I love them. But in the end of each one, at least in Sweden, it was like, Yeah, but now we're polluting the oceans. And yeah, now the biodiversity is going down, and the forests are disappearing, and blah, blah, blah, blah. It was really depressing. And it was like, I need to change this. And apparently, even in high school, I was like someone, if someone's throwing trash on the street, I was, like, picking it up, like, Hey, you lost this, you know. So I was this annoying environmentalist, even though I didn't really realise it when I was a kid. And then I started university. And I've also been very interested in movies and computer games and communication. So I took a master's degree in media production at Lynn Chapman University and it was fantastic. And I did a lot of things outside of school, like arranging film festivals and computer festivals and a lot of things. So I kind of got into the whole entertainment industry. And that also was my first job. So I used to work in the computer games industry, first, Massive Entertainment, one of the Swedish, biggest computer games companies at the time, or right now. Then I started working for their publisher, traveled around the world, promoting games, basically, it was a fun time. And then I got headhunted by 20th Century Fox, the film industry, the film company. And I actually, this is very interesting because I wrote a really angry thesis about evil media conglomerate. So when I was a student, and the most evil one of all of course, is Fox. So that was like, a big, like, a month of struggle for me, like, can I take this fantastic job? Or shouldn't I, you know, and I kind of landed in, I couldn't say no, and I had this thing for myself, like, maybe I can change it from within. Very naive. Anyway, it was two fun years as a promotion manager, also hanging out with the Hollywood celebrities and making all our premieres and making this horrible kind of promotion campaigns Ice Age and McDonald's campaigns to make you know, kids, go see this film and eat more McDonald's and you know, shitty products, X-Men and some Cinemobiles. Maybe that was not a shitty product, but you really try to make people consume more basically. And that's totally not aligned with what I'm doing right now. Anyway, I was doing this until the movie, An Inconvenient Truth with Al Gore came out and I was just stopped in my tracks, like, what the heck am I doing? I was working my ass off in the movie industry. And I was like, what if I put all this energy into actually saving the planet instead? So I quit my job, started to study environmental issues at night and started working for a homeless organisation. So I did that for a few years, worked at the communication and fundraising department and also learned CSR issues. Really, really good time to learn a lot of things. And from there, I started working for different sustainability consultancies as a Communication and Marketing Director. And one of them was Tricorona, where we started one network called the Haga initiative, which is still around and it's been one of the most successful business climate networks out there. Then Nina Ekelund who's running it, one of my closest friends, she has been amazing, and having this strong business network with really, really strong, large companies influencing the Swedish policy sector. So they were held part in making sure we have this ambitious climate target that we have now in Sweden, and the climate law and so on, because they were kind of like a different voice from the business sector, where they traditionally said, Well, you can't give us you know, really tough targets, because you're gonna lose the business, we're gonna go abroad instead, if you're going to have, you know, really tough targets. But this Haga Initiative group of companies were saying, No, we need this because if we don't, you know, meet the Paris Agreement and Frontrunners, we're not gonna have a business in the future. So that was really, when I saw the power of networks. That's something that I really brought with me and all the other, you know, jobs I had, especially the WWF, I've been part of studying many networks, or the Sustainable Food Chain Initiative, for instance, the Baltics Stewardship Initiative, and so on. So yeah, I think networks really work if it's done right.

Barry O'Kane  34:48

Maybe you've already answered this question. But I was gonna ask then what, for people listening, who want to take action and are inspired by some of the examples, you're sharing the story and your point about networks there, what will be the one thing that you would advise people to think about, for their own trajectories in that direction?

Elin Bergman  35:06

Probably a lot of networks out there that you can be engaged in, either as a representative for a company or as a private person. So I would just recommend to get engaged and start networking. It's fantastic. It's fun, it's powerful. So just do it. And if you don't find any networks, you can start your own. It's not as hard as it seems. I mean, just looking at the Nordics Circular Hotspot that we started, we based the whole organisation structure on the Holland Circular Hotspot. And now there are Hotspots of the world popping up everywhere. So we're going to have a big event about that in the World Circular Economy Forum in May as well. So if you want to hear what the other Hotspots are working on, you should log into that session as well. Because I think there's so much we can learn from each other across the world.

Barry O'Kane  35:52

And then just finally, because we're running out of time, unfortunately, I'd love to keep talking. So if people listening who want to find out more about the work you do and get in touch with you or the organisations, where should they go?

Elin Bergman  36:03

If you're in Sweden, you should go to We have a website. We also have LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook groups, or you can become a member of the network, of course, or you can log into or the, which is a digital free platform we have for all the stakeholders in the Nordics that are interested in Circular Economy or working on Circular Economy. We have hundreds of reports, we have events, it's a collaboration platform. So you can just talk to each other basically. It's totally free to register. You can also check out our events. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and Instagram on Nordic Circular Hotspot as well.

Barry O'Kane  36:42

Awesome. Thanks so much. We'll share all of those on the Show Notes on Thank you so much for joining. It's been a real pleasure talking to you and a real honour and I'm sort of coming away inspired with all the stuff you've done. And thanks for sharing your journey as well to get to this point.

Elin Bergman  36:55

Thank you for having me. It's been a fantastic time.

Emily Swaddle  36:59

Thank you so much.

Emily Swaddle  37:03

Thank you for listening to this episode of HappyPorch Radio. You can find past episodes, transcripts and show notes at You can also get in touch with us there and let us know what you think or if you have any ideas or comments. Please rate the podcast, share and subscribe so that more people can find the show.

Barry O'Kane  37:19

Thanks for listening. My name is Barry O'Kane. I founded HappyPorch who fund and support this podcast. At HappyPorch we do technology and software development for purpose led businesses and we're particularly excited about the role of digital as an enabler for the Circular Economy. If you're working on solutions to the big problems we face today, problems like climate change, biodiversity loss and global inequality then let's connect,visit and get in touch.

Emily Swaddle  37:41

And I'm Emily Swaddle, podcaster coach, facilitator and storyteller. You can find me on my other podcast, the Carbon Removal Show, and you can find out more about that project and everything else I do at where you can also subscribe to my Newsletter All about Rest. If you're interested in anything I do, feel free to connect. You can email me on [email protected]