1st Edition

Material Matters Developing Business for a Circular Economy

By Thomas Rau, Sabine Oberhuber Copyright 2023
    272 Pages 38 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    272 Pages 38 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Our planet is a closed system with limited material resources, yet our current economic model is designed in a one-way direction from resource extraction to disposal, leading to resource depletion. This book proposes a new economic model, offering an alternative to this linear ‘take-make-waste’ economy.

    Material Matters shows a way of creating a circular economy by using the unlimited resources we have: renewable energy, data and intelligence. It describes a system based on circular business models centred on selling performance rather than ownership, designing products and buildings as resource banks and equipping products with a ‘material passport’ to ensure their usability for future generations. Businesses thereby become custodians of materials, rather than consumers of materials and sellers of products. The book evokes the vision of a radically new economic model based on a compelling narrative, supported with cases that have been developed in conjunction with major companies, for example, convincing Philips to sell light instead of lamps, saving energy and materials by creating a whole new business model, a case which has become iconic for the circular economy.

    Material Matters is not a somber analysis of the state of the planet but a concrete and comprehensive agenda for change, offering perspectives for taking action for business and individual consumers alike.

    1. The product-as-problem  2. The linear economy or the end of the line  3. Spaceship Earth – a closed system  4. Permanent temporality  5. Changing the rules of the game  6. The Material Passport  7. Madaster - a registry for materials  8. UDMR, The Universal Declaration of Material Rights  9. Material-as-a-Service – rethinking material ownership  10. Completing the Copernican Revolution


    Thomas Rau is an architect, entrepreneur, innovator and recognized thought leader on sustainability and circular economy. His office RAU has been recognized for being at the forefront of producing innovative CO2 neutral, energy positive and circular buildings as a norm. Thomas was elected as Dutch Architect of the Year 2013 and awarded with the ARC13 Oeuvre Award for his widespread contribution in both promoting and realizing sustainable architecture and bringing awareness of the circular economy through international delivered lectures, TV documentaries, TED talks and publications. In 2016, he was nominated for the Circular Economy leadership Award of the World Economic Forum. In 2021, he received the Circular Hero Award by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure.

    Sabine Oberhuber is an economist; together with Thomas Rau, she cofounded Turntoo, one of the first companies in the world focusing on the transition to a circular economy. Sabine is a renowned expert on circular economy; together with her team at Turntoo, she assists corporate clients and public institutions in the development and implementation of circular business models and management strategies and facilitates the transition to a circular economy. She studied economics at the Freie Wilhelms University in Münster (Germany) and received her Master of Management from the ESCP (EAP) European School of Management in Paris, Oxford and Berlin.

    "This is a book that gives an accessible and practical vision of the circular economy, viewed through the eyes of two people who have played and continue to play a key role in its realisation."

    Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

    "This book is a bold vision and a manual for a 21st century economy. A wake-up call."

    Prof. Dr. Martin R. Stuchtey, University of Innsbruck; Founder, Managing Partner, SYSTEMIQ

    "A very inspiring and relevant book. We live in times of scepticism, doubt, negativism and populism. But only an agenda of hope takes us further. This is an important contribution to this agenda."

    Prof. Dr. Jan Peter Balkenende, Former Dutch Prime Minister

    "The products of today are the resources of tomorrow if we use them intelligently. This book shows us how."

    Prof. Dr. Walter R. Stahel, Leading expert on circular economy; Member of the Club of Rome; Founder -Director, The Product-Life Institute, Geneva