I recently attended the Scottish Resources Conference which, for those who don’t know, is a great two day event that highlights the leading role that Scotland is playing in driving the world towards a circular economy. Presentation topics included research into innovative technologies, recovering value from waste, the availability of circular economy funding for business, social enterprise activities and the use of mobile app technologies to combat food waste. It was impressive to see the level of activity and collaboration that is taking place.
However, it did occur to me that although companies might have heard of the “circular economy” many might not know what it is or how to get involved. This could be an issue as a recent study suggested that if emissions continue at current levels then we only have another 20 years before global warming becomes irreversible. Therefore, if we truly want to make a difference, every organisation needs to use the circular economy philosophy as the basis for their operations and future strategic vision.
First things first, let us clarify what the circular economy actually is
When I first heard the term I was transported back to the stories my grandmother told of her childhood when the price of entry to her local cinema was an empty jam jar and how all the family clothes were handed down until they were used to make quilts. I’m still using her patchwork quilts today!
This may be a simplistic example but the concept is straight forward and involves minimising waste, reusing resources or adding value to them so that they are desirable to another organisation. The truth is that nature operates in a circular cycle, which means it is sustainable. Our current “linear” economy takes too many resources from nature and puts them back in as waste, in ways that threaten to make the natural cycle un-sustainable. Ultimately, businesses adopting a circular economy approach should benefit by improving efficiency, reducing resource costs and reducing waste.
10 questions to begin your circular economy journey
The attendees and presenters at the Scottish Resources Conference came from a wide range of sectors, organisations and countries. A number of these have already adopted a circular model for their business and shared their real world experience of the circular economy. Based on their insight, I have set out ten starter questions to ask yourself about your own business to help you begin your circular economy journey.
- How do materials flow through your business and how much ends up in your waste stream?
- Are you re-using or recycling as much of your waste as you could be?
- Is your product designed to easily be recycled at the end of its life?
- Do you take back used products from your customers and recycle, repair or re-use them?
- Have you thought about leasing your products rather than selling them?
- Could you use renewable energy sources?
- Would any other organisation be interested in using your waste materials?
- Could you buy any of your materials second-hand?
- Do you support recycling markets by buying recycled or re-manufactured products?
- Do you buy items, which are cost effective to run over their lifetime rather than just the cheapest purchase price?
The answer to these questions will identify the opportunities and avenues that are available for you to take if you want to introduce the circular economy philosophy into your business.
If you want to take the next step or have any questions, then get in touch on 0800 61 22 200 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Morag Hart, Head of Consultancy