Sustainability, circular economies and love: What’s trending in 2022 and beyond

trending 2022

Read on for insights from our recent webinar ‘A look to the future for SMEs’, featuring futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson, Officeworks executive GM business Kirstie Hepburn and World’s Biggest Garage Sale founder Yasmin Grigaliunas.

You’ve probably heard how the pandemic has sparked a decade’s worth of digital transformation in two years. But what other major business trends have emerged since COVID-19 started dominating headlines in 2020? And, more importantly, how can SMEs take advantage of them? 

SmartCompany editor Eloise Keating spoke with futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson, World’s Biggest Garage Sale founder Yasmin Grigaliunas, and Officeworks Executive GM Business Kirstie Hepburn to find out. 

Start circulating

When Grigaliunas was first getting the World’s Biggest Garage Sale up and running, she often heard “customers wanting visibility over where their products were going, and wanting to know the impact of the things they were giving us.” That’s when she “realised the circular economy was an opportunity, not a problem”. 

In the years since, this movement has only picked up speed — and, along with a demand for greater sustainability, it’s one of the top trends to emerge post-COVID. 

To illustrate a circular economy in action, Sörman-Nilsson holds up a USBC cord he bought recently from Officeworks. It was made by a company called Nimble, out of 100% recycled and repurposed parts. 

“When you buy something from Nimble, they also send you a little bag for your old technology, so you can send it back in a very circular fashion,” he says. “They are a company that really takes ownership and stewardship of their products through the entire life cycle. And it’s so powerful to see companies not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.”

Remember, “the trend is our friend” when we can anchor our business to it, he says, but it can be just as easily our foe if we ignore it. 

Want to know what the experts think is next for business? Watch our webinar ‘A look to the future for SMEs’ in partnership with Officeworks, in full and on-demand here.

All you need is love

Empathy, kindness, goodwill and personal relationships — it doesn’t sound very business-y, but love is a mega trend post-pandemic. 

“It started as ‘customer service’, then it became ‘customer experience’, and we now call it ‘customer intimacy’,” Grigaliunas says. 

That means looking for relational value over transactional value, she explains, and asking: 

  • “How am I going to maintain a relationship of longevity with my customer?” 
  • “What is it that they really need?” And, 
  • “How do we listen more and learn?”

Because, “If all I focus on is money, then all I’ll get is money and my competitive advantage is gone.”

In the same vein, Hepburn thinks now’s a good time to consider how you really feel about the people you’re in business with. Would you want to sit next to them at dinner, or avoid them at all costs?

“Whether it’s supplier arrangements or your team members — who are the people helping to support your organisation?” she asks. “And are they the people that you really trust and love, or are they people that you put up with and tolerate? If you tolerate them, then it’s time to find a new friend. 

“We don’t have the capacity anymore to deal with difficult, turbulent relationships in business. We’ve got to work with people that we believe in and that share the same goals that we do.”

Look for values-based relationships

When a large company with resources joins forces with a small business with big ideas, it’s called an “innovation intersection”, Sörman-Nillson says. And in the future, he expects to see more such partnerships — like the one between Officeworks and World’s Biggest Garage Sale.

But, as a small business, it’s not just about “throwing a hook out into the ocean and trying to stumble upon someone that will say yes,” Grigaliunas says. Instead, you need to do your homework to find out what a potential partner or investor is saying and doing, what their values are, and whether these truly align with your business. With all that in mind, do you really derive and deliver value for each other?

Hepburn agrees that shared values are of the utmost importance, adding that they will underpin the success of all your business partnerships and brand.

“Whether it’s for your plumbing or your painting, or your supply for your products to make your retail store operate, it doesn’t matter,” she says. “Just make sure the people that you partner with are people that you have a values-based relationship with, because more and more companies and customers are telling us that’s what’s important to them.”

NOW READ: Risk management in 2022 and beyond: Expert advice for SMEs


Officeworks is Australia's leading retailer of office supplies, technology, furniture, education resources, art supplies and Print & Create. Officeworks offers more than 40,000 products on its website, catering to micro, small and medium business customers to help them start, run and grow their business. With everyday low prices on quality products and services, including tech-support by Geeks2U, you’ll find everything you need at Officeworks.

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