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Andrea Brown

Andrea
Brown

Director of Circular Economy at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Circular economy expert
Andrea Brown

The hottest business trends are circular

In a resource-constrained world, there’s no room for waste. Getting creative with the way we obtain, use and dispose of materials will be key for a successful and sustainable global economy. This is the basis of the circular economy. It’s also one of the biggest business opportunities of our generation.

 

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission report, Better Business Better World, indicates that achieving the SDGs could create at least $12 trillion in business value by 2030 and generate up to 380 million jobs. The report highlights the circular economy as being one of five key game-changing business models that are helping to realize the SDGs and the market opportunities that they represent. At the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), we work with 200 companies to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world and promote a “circular mindset” among CEOs and business leaders. Here are some of the hottest trends we’re seeing:

 

 

  • Businesses want to better understand risks in the “linear” economy

 

The current linear model poses serious risks for businesses – and they know it. Aside from the obvious procurement issues associated with diminishing resources and growing demand, there are wider financial, reputational and regulatory concerns that companies should consider. For example, plastics marine debris is a serious problem for companies. Branded trash is literally crowding our oceans. Every year, 800 million tons of plastics leak into the ocean – that’s a full garbage truck every single minute. If trends continue, we’ll have more plastic in the ocean than fish in the sea by weight in 2050. Much of the trash can be traced back to its origin through brands and logos alone. Business wants to address this issue and close the loop on plastics to address marine debris. Better waste management and careful product design are important elements, but what should companies do with the waste that’s already “out there?”

 

 

  • Companies are finding new uses for secondary materials

 

In this scenario, one company’s waste can literally become another’s treasure. Companies are finding creative ways to reuse waste within their operations, and are even looking to trade or purchase secondary materials that would otherwise be waste – which is why the MarketplaceHUB is so exciting. It connects a network of individuals and organizations practicing circular economy and allows them to find secondary materials marketplaces according to their location or preferred material. It brings together over 100 marketplaces around the world to share knowledge and best practices for anyone interested in getting started.

 

 

  • As companies partner up and buy valuable inputs and outputs from one another, we can hope to see entire industries start doing away with the concept of waste and move towards implementing the circular economy – but they can’t do it alone!

 

Policies should encourage businesses to implement circular principles. Sustainability advocates in business need to help showcase positive, meaningful examples of success. The logical question then becomes, how can businesses tell if they’re implementing circular economy principles successfully?

 

 

  • Increased focus on metrics and measurement

 

Understanding how effective circular strategies are will be key for taking them into the mainstream. Right now, companies are implementing circular economy solutions, but are still looking to quantify the positive impact they’re having. Understanding and communicating the economic, social and environmental benefits of going circular goes a long way in helping sustainability professionals integrate circular principles across their businesses – there’s a lot of work to be done on this. Companies need an agreed approach to define and measure success, and a clear framework for implementing the best principles across entire industries.

 

Overall, it’s good news

The good news is that companies and policymakers are starting to understand the benefits of going circular. We’re on this planet together, we might as well do everything we can to ensure that society and the environment are healthy by doing more with less!

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