State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


How to Get Your Head Around the ‘Circular Economy’

Vincent Aurez, Ernst & Young Consultant
Circular Economy Week panelist Vincent Aurez

On April 3, the School of International and Public Affairs and the Earth Institute welcomed Vincent Aurez to kick off Columbia’s inaugural Circular Economy Week. The opening lecture, titled “What is the Circular Economy?,” introduced attendees to the development of the circular economy over time, from its conceptual origins in the 1970s to its implementation in business and policy today. The circular economy rethinks how we consume and waste materials, seeking to improve efficiency, reduce waste, drive strategic partnerships and ultimately mitigate environmental impact.

Aurez, an economist and circular economy consultant for Ernst & Young’s Paris office, drew on his expertise in the European and Chinese markets to present on multiple case studies on how companies have drawn on intelligent eco-design, and developed or identified new markets for their waste products, to improve profitability while reducing global footprint. It also allows companies to better account for operational or market risk where key resources are scarce and finite. On the policy context, Aurez expanded on China’s “10-100-1000” approach, in which cities were used as policy laboratories to test, refine and ultimately replicate circular principles on a larger scale.

These successful cases are increasingly prevalent on a global scale: “You are seeing these transitions, both in business cases and in academic studies, in Russia, China, France and elsewhere,” Aurez said. This follows the findings from his new book, Economie Circulaire: Système Economique et Finitude des Resources (“Circular Economy – Economic Systems and Resource Scarcity”), soon to be available in English.

The lecture concluded with a discussion of how globalization and the decrease in transaction costs in identifying new markets spurs forward this transition, as well as how it relates to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Circular economy week

The lecture was part of the Earth Institute and SIPA’s Circular Economy Week, a series of events organized entirely by students Kevin Fertig and Allison Pace of the Masters in Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program.

Aurez will be speaking again on Friday, April 7, at the Circular Economy Week closing panel. The event is scheduled from 10–11:30 a.m. in Schermerhorn 614 on Columbia’s Morningside campus.

Tickets are available at the following link, and food and drink will be provided. Please RSVP:




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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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