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The Circular Economy: Break Away from Tradition

This is going to be the first in a series of pieces following on from my article, Responsible Sourcing and Sustainability: The Challenges and Opportunities. In these brief articles I will look to tackle the opportunities that lie ahead for business and attempt to paint a picture of what a sustainable business must look like in the future.

There has been an increasing amount of discourse and publicity surrounding the concept of the Circular Economy as a new, modernised and sustainable business model to replace the traditional linear approach to business. The incumbent, old fashioned approach centres on the ‘end of life’ concept in which businesses are clearly defined by making resources, using resources and then disposing of resources. The Circular Economy would require a radical change to this current model, as the principles and attitudes of consumerism would have to be readapted to ones that focus more on reuse, recycling and innovation to keep resources in the economy for a longer life span and generate a culture of resource efficiency.

The Circular Economy model would encourage businesses to close the loop within all their practices, essentially bringing their functions back to a point at which the environmental impact is of integral importance.  In this way every aspect of the business function would be thought of from an environmental perspective and therefore would lead to sustainable practice becoming more deeply embedded into the business and its people. Making a switch to a business model such as this in my opinion seems like a simple decision, for the reason that as Jeremy Irons put it ‘it makes complete sense to re-use.’ It really does. In a world where everyday resources are becoming increasingly stretched by increasing global populations and restricting space, it is essential that the world, in my opinion, should make the change to becoming savvier with their use of resources and keep those resources useful for a longer period of time.  Through these changes the supply chains of business can become redefined.

Early predictions about the Circular Economy state that it will not only have huge environmental benefits but it is also a better economic model in itself. The report by the Scottish Government published recently states that the circular economy could provide savings of £2.9bn as well as the creation of up to 12,000 jobs in Scotland alone.  Adopting a Circular Economic structure for your business would also generate a new USP as once again, being shown to be proactive as opposed to reactive is something that businesses should strive to do in order to differentiate them from competitors. Importantly, adopting the Circular Economic model will future proof your business against the likely changes to legislation that will apply as sustainability becomes an increasingly pressing issue. At Delphis Eco, we have adopted a Cradle to Cradle business model,  the Delphis Eco adaptation of the circular economy,  in which all our business functions refer back to the environment in a constantly reflective and innovative manner. The issues we tackle through adopting this model are vast and range from transportation, in which all our trucks are streamlined for maximum fuel efficiency to our packaging, in which our Super Active Washing Up Liquid bottles are now made from post-recycled consumer waste.  The details of our Cradle to Cradle model can be seen on this website in more detail.

There are of course barriers to businesses adopting the Circular Economy, with many of them centring on a fear of change, and ultimately a lack of knowledge of many that still persists around environmental issues. However, with the continuing attention that is being paid to issues of sustainability, I see the Circular Economy as a model that will inexorably become the norm. It currently presents a huge opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves from their competitors and show an active pursuit of sustainable business as opposed to simply discussing it in their CSR policy. In order for this to happen, it will need wider collaboration from businesses and strategic thinking from lobbying groups, academics and the government. If these thinkers do come together, I see a real opportunity to create an industrial strategy from which the Circular Economy can be launched. The sooner the better, we hope.

 

Daniel Newton – Delphis Eco Graduate Employee

 

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