October 30, 2020

How to harvest the potential of the $4.5trn circular economy

The planet is facing an ongoing resource shortage today. We use resources at about twice the rate at which the earth will replenish them, leading to exponential population growth and an 'onward and upward' economic paradigm. About 100 billion tonnes of raw materials entered the global economy last year. 

We are not only over-consuming assets; we are losing them as well. Our inefficient systems, far from changing, appear to be getting worse. Two years ago, 9.1 percent of business-wide waste was reclaimed. It is just 8.6 percent today. The residual pollution spills into our atmosphere, flooding our waters every year with 8 million metric tonnes of it. In fact, the amount of plastic in the ocean is estimated to be a million times greater than previously believed. 

Yet COVID-19 offers a rare chance for us to start over. We should adopt an economic model based on growth and equity as we recover from the harm of the pandemic. We must now shift away from conventional economic paradigms based on relentless, upward development and towards a circular model based on wealth production for all on the planet. 

Aiming for the full circle

The circular economy could sound like a futuristic idea or an unattainable alternate economic paradigm to others. But really, it's a lot more feasible than one would imagine.

In the past, productivity and profitability were the foundations for a stable economy. This paradigm, however, has created tremendous injustice across the globe. We will be helped to fix this by a circular economy. All have meaning because systems are circular and nothing is lost. Things are made to last and are crafted. Producers encourage reuse, repair, and remanufacture, helping goods to stay in operation for as long as possible at their peak value. 

It will offer massive advantages to this model. A circular economy has the potential, according to Accenture, to unleash $4.5trn in economic growth. It may also play a key role in climate change mitigation, the greatest challenge we face today.

The circular economy could unleash economic growth of $4.5trn.

Businesses must start small in order to accomplish this tremendous transformation. In every part of development, from design through to execution, circularity needs to be incorporated.

Throughout the entire value chain, the only successful circular approaches seem to rely on clear resource ownership, in many cases within one organization. Crucially, it also requires trustworthy cooperation between participating industries to shift classical linear value chains toward circularity. Confidence is focused on resource integrity, but also on financial flows. 

In the education of the next generation of business leaders, we need to integrate this thinking about resource ownership.

Two big hurdles, however, stand in the way of achieving maximum circularity. First, organizations need to look beyond their individualistic benefit metrics and understand the holistic effect of a resource or commodity over the entire lifecycle more generally. Secondly, in the education of the next generation of business leaders, we need to integrate this thinking about resource ownership. Both of these improvements entail an immense shift in the mindset around what it means to produce market value. 

Creating circular companies

Circuly focuses on the usage of products that plays a major role in the transition towards the circular economy. The first step towards a circular business model can easily be implemented by also offering physical products for rent instead of just selling it. That step extends the product life cycle, and effectively reduces the waste of materials while ensuring considerate and responsible use of materials in the recycling process. 

The strength of partnerships

Participation from all sectors is needed for a complete transition to a circular economic model. The pandemic has shown that no one person or organization alone can solve the problems of the world. In order to accomplish it, now is the time for a common vision of our future and focused action. By default, powering the circular economy would be a global 'project' that we all need to subscribe to and deliver, collaborative and inclusive. Climate action and the development of a more inclusive society would need to go hand in hand. Collaboration, faith, creativity, and unity will be required. It is well within our grasp of a circular economy. But it demands that we all reach out and take it.


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