You may well have read about it: the concept of the ‘circular economy’ – a new regenerative economic model. We currently operate in a ‘linear economy’ where we ‘make, take and dispose’ of goods that end up in landfills. The circular economy on the other hand, ensures that all products and materials can be used in a continuous cycle as the same product, without losing its quality, use or integrity.
This isn’t just about recycling or saving the planet – it presents a whole new way of thinking about how we design and make new products, whilst also creating new revenue streams. Sounds pretty good, right? So, how can businesses play their part in making a circular economy a reality?
Many businesses across a range of industries from fashion to food, tech to logistics are already reaping the benefits of moving to a circular model. Take sportswear giant, Adidas who recently announced that new trainers would be produced and made entirely from ocean-salvaged plastics right through to smaller organisations such as Toast Ale, who is transforming surplus bread into beer. In both instances, the old trainers and beer bottles could be re-used to take on a completely different form or function. Taking waste products that are totally scalable and creating new products that meet customer demand is a tangible reality, and can be embedded into the very fabric of how many organisations operate today.
So, where do you start for your business?
- Get your employees on board: educating all staff on why the circular economy matters and why their participation matters are an imperative starting point.
- Set out an action plan and take small and achievable steps: define where you can realistically start to make a positive change. This could be anything from adopting renewable energy sources to power your business, to implementing more sophisticated ways of recycling. Ultimately, think about the goals and ethos of your business and which method is the best to get you there.
- Get an effective comms strategy in place: once underway with an engaged workforce – shout about what you are doing! With effective communications and PR, tell a story about how your business is playing its part in creating the UK’s circular economy. This will educate the public and wider stakeholders on why this new economic model is critical, and why it matters.
I hope there is a day when moving to a circular economy is not an afterthought or a nice ‘bolt-on’, but is part of how many organisations operate in the future. Moving to a circular economic model can create a whole host of new products, new opportunities and new ways of working, all using the built and natural environment around us for inspiration. What’s not to like?
*Recommended reading: The Ellen McArthur Foundation*