The Circular Theory & Sustainable Business

Exploring the Circular Theory.

Meet Najia Qazi, Founder of Dubai based platform, Sustainable Narrative, which hones in on how to support businesses to operate more sustainably. Below, Qazi highlights how her academic and professional journeys led her to start the initiative and explains how basic functional changes to a brand’s internal structure can create efficacy in the long-run and support the health of our environment  and economy.  

About Sustainable Narrative

An Independent, digital, & design platform. We are focused on conceptualizing, designing, and consulting on sustainable, ethical, eco-friendly, and impactful design solutions to various design hubs and incubator across industries. Our premise is the circular design theory. With our platform, we hope to bring together a business community and their sustainability goals and initiatives under one umbrella.

About Najia Qazi

Designer, Conceptual design, product, and a brand Image Developer. Najia Qazi & her team create Sustainable design solutions, systems & products that last, evolve in the current design industry. She’s also the founder of Sustainable Narrative platform for creating awareness regarding the Sustainability within the design & fashion industry. Supported by a strong educational background in fashion design and marketing from prestigious institutes such as L’ecole De La Chambre Paris(2013), London College of Fashion (2014), Parsons School of Design, NYC (2016) and Central Saint Martins (2018) and Columbia University, New York(2020).

1. Explain to us what the Sustainable Narrative mission is.

At Sustainable Narrative, our mission is to create awareness by providing sustainable design-based solutions to incubators, startups, design hubs & think tanks in Dubai, UAE. We aim to incorporate the regenerative business mindset that includes the process of restoration, renewal of the current resources, and creation of sustainable systems.

2. Tell us about your personal passion in starting such an initiative in 2018.

Back in 2018, I laid the steppingstone for Sustainable Narrative after studying Sustainable and Ethical Fashion at the Central Saint Martins, London, UK. I was introduced to the to the current gap in the market in the UAE market wherein the concept of sustainability was practically missing. Having worked as a fashion designer with various brands, I began to question how the entire design system works and decide to find a solution for glaring issues such as the unfair pay gap, high rate of production leading to over consumption, excessive wastage of resources etc.

My aim has always been to promote the concept of Sustainability; not just as a popular or current trend but rather as a lifestyle worth embracing, which is most needed in the walks of design or fashion. 

3. How exactly do you work with brands to implement sustainable practices?

We focus on conceptualizing, designing, and consulting on sustainable design solutions with the brands or businesses. The premise is always the circular design theory. We help the client to incorporate this concept in their long-term business model plan rather than short- term, in order to be more ethical, sustainable, and profitable. 

In line with this, we also promote a new mind-set for business, i.e. the circular design thinking approach  which allows the businesses to explore new ways to create sustainable, resilient, long-lasting value– giving the confidence to redesign the world around you.

4. You’ve studied at acclaimed institutions UA London on the subject of Sustainable and Ethical Fashion. How has the experience shaped the way you think about the sustainable fashion? Would you recommend taking such a program?

I would highly recommend the program because I believe it’s essential to learn and educate on the social, economic and environmental factors that we impact designing and production in the industry. 

The program gives a broad overview of the fashion industry, from design production to the globalization of fast fashion from a sustainability point of view. It also explores the possibilities of sustainable and ethical practices in fashion through the way we design, produce, and consume clothes. It focuses on the design, textile processes and techniques, coupled with execution of a conceptual framework based on the theme of ‘Sustainability’ as well taking in consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

5. You have discussed the ‘circular’ theory’ in previous articles. Can you define the theory for us and highlight which brands in the MENA region have done a stellar job at practicing this already and why?

The concept recognizes the importance of the economy needing to work effectively and efficiently at all scales – for large and small businesses, for organizations and individuals, globally and locally. Transitioning to a circular economy does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear economy. Rather, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits. 

The rise of sustainable movement has led to the circular design theory which means that products that are designed, sourced, and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly. The brands in the MENA region have a long way to go as compared to the ones internationally. It will take another 3 to 5 years to work along those lines.

6. What tools and/or resources would brands need to have in order to be able to truly act sustainably?

Firstly, we need to understand that it’s nearly impossible for a brand to be 100% sustainable. The businesses need to incorporate the 3Ps rule that is people, profit and planet in order to achieve ethical and sustainable goals in the competitive market. 

There is a need of a radical transformation: we need to work together as an industry with commitment and innovation and challenge the status quo. Also, we need to evolve from just reducing our impact to making a positive impact, but this can only happen if we all work together.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

7. The MENA region is somewhat behind the USA on generally adopting sustainable shopping. What can brands, government entities and every day customers do to help drive the change?

The transition to a more responsible future must also involve both consumers and the government. We are seeing a growing demand for the sustainable products as several local start-ups are now stepping into the game, with trendier alternatives and substitutes to existing choices, often motivated by a desire to truly improve the environment for future generations. 

It is becoming increasingly critical that governments promote environmental reform through regulation and policy. But an important question remains: to become truly sustainable, how must the lifestyles and consumption habits of consumers change?

8. Why is it important for customers to invest in ‘ethical shopping’ to support sustaining the world’s long-term health? Is there a direct connection?

Various factors influence a customer’s decision that includes awareness regarding the production process, usage of materials and components, effects on climate etc. As the consequences of climate change and environmental breakdown start to appear, awareness of “green” issues and sustainability in the products and services is rising within the UAE. Consumers have become more aware of the impacts of their purchases, and businesses are innovating in response- labels such as “natural”, “organic”, “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” have proliferated in response to a growing demand for “green products” as a result.

9. What is one piece of advice you want to leave our readers with today?

Set clear goals, be transparent about the process as well as the challenges and always seek to develop a unique narrative with yourself and the people around you