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In 2021 all eyes will be on COP26 and how nations will focus efforts, first and foremost, on reducing carbon emissions in the race to Net Zero.

The Circular Economy is an opportunity to reduce emissions through systemic change in materials use and how we manufacture and use goods and services.  According to the Circularity Gap Report 2021, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 39% and ease pressure on virgin materials by 28% by switching to a circular economy.

The report also states:

  • 70% of GHGs emitted are directly linked to material handling and use (from extraction and transportation to processing and use of our clothes, phones and meals)
  • 80% of all emissions are linked to housing, mobility and nutrition.

The Ellen MacArthur foundation’s definition of circular economy is based on the principles of

  • designing out waste and pollution
  • keeping products and resources in use
  • regenerating natural systems

So how can your organisation take action to become more circular following these principles? How can you increase resource efficiency and reduce environmental impact? The very first step, as with anything that involves change, is to commit.

1. Designing out Waste and Pollution

So let’s head to the bins! Start going through your waste and analyse where it comes from and where it ends up. Get lots of people involved in your mission to reduce your waste! Circular Economy is all about collaborative partnership throughout your value chain!

To take things further – rename your waste as a resource. Resource management has the potential to create savings or even income, waste management is mostly seen as a cost. Giving value to your waste will help accelerate the change.  For further inspiration do read my colleague Cathy Driscoll’s blog post How can waste reduction help you to build a business case for sustainability?

Assess which of your operations pollute the most. What role does transportation play? What chemicals do you use? Are you contributing to plastic pollution? Do your processes have leakage that are potentially harming the natural world around you?

As always, find ways to track the data so you can create a benchmark and measure progress.

2. Keeping products and resources in use

This is a big one. Our current, linear, economy was built on consumerism and even our economic growth is measured through GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. In this economy we are encouraged to make more and thus waste more.

So how can you and your organisation keep products and resources in use for longer? You buy a lot less! You consider renting and when you do need to buy, you spend your money on quality and designs that can be serviced through repairs and upgrades. Or you source refurbished items. If you are selling, you sell quality that again is designed to last a lifetime or you sell a service and find ways to maximise your value creation. And at the end of life you make sure the design allows for the product to be recycled and the materials are returned back into a second or third life somewhere else.

Circular economy piechart

3. Regenerating natural systems

How do your processes impact the natural systems? One of the first things to assess is where you source your energy, does renewable energy play a role? If you use natural materials or ingredients in your processes, research the origins. Is your supply chain supporting regenerative agriculture, responsible ways of fishing and reforestation? Do you prioritise recycled materials? Does your organisation own land, how is that managed?

Natural resources are the building blocks of everything on this planet, so we must make sure we are using them in a regenerative way.

Circular economy is not just a business strategy exercise, it is about valuing your ecosystem, creating partnerships that strengthen the communities you operate in.  It is also an opportunity to innovate, create new business models to become resilient and to retain your customers whilst reducing the negative impact on our planet.

If this has raised more questions and you would like to understand better how your organisation can benefit from circularity please get in touch with us.

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