S³- Sustainable Strategies Segment: Around and Around Again


[endif]--When we hear the word circular, we immediately think of a circle; a continuous shape with no beginning and no end. Imagine what happens when we use our natural resources, it serves a purpose, then we find another purpose for it, and its use is endless. Now, I know you’re thinking I’m just using another word for recycling, but actually, this is recycling on steroids! I’m talking about a circular economy. This sustainability principle shifts how manufacturing businesses do business. A linear economy, which is in direct contrast with a circular economy, traditionally, would extract raw materials from the earth, and after it served it’s often short life span, would be buried back into the earth, becoming wasteful landfill. However, as natural resources, such as water, trees, and minerals are becoming more scarce, and its use more unsustainable, a need to shift how these resources are being used happened as the circular economy emerged. Goodwin (2015), cited Walter Stahel, originator of the circular economy notion, who was vehemently adamant about businesses considering to open remanufacturing plants versus manufacturing plants. [1] The opportunity to make more money becomes greater[2] as the demand to repurpose and remanufacture materials increases.

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Many global corporations have joined forces to “close the loop” and remanufacture materials with a goal of zero waste. Sustainable Brands®, a clearinghouse of resources about sustainability; that is companies, corporations, thought leaders, events, webinars, online training, and more, reported how companies such as Walmart, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, Keurig Green Mountain, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Goldman Sach partnered on an initiative called the “Closed Loop Fund.”[3] Elks (2015) of Sustainable Brands® wrote, “this project is a $100 million, five-year investment in the development of recycling infrastructure in cities across the U.S.” Many other companies are joining the “close the loop”concept to build a stronger, continuous i.e. circular economy.

Although there are numerous circular business models, there seems to be some reluctance of more participation from various industries. One drawback is the uncertainty of the idea. As with any robust and radical innovative change, some companies are risk adverse and resist the investment. Often, as is typical with the introduction of any new innovative project, significant upfront investment is necessary to achieve the long-term return, however, this often hefty price tag makes it challenging to justify the cost to skeptical investors. Managers must build a case for adapting this sustainability practice of remanufacturing, reusing, and recycling products. One way this is achieved is through researching circular business models and finding the evidence that supports how risks are managed and the evidence of the benefits of value creation, reduction of negative environmental impacts, and increased profitability; a few rewards worthy of investing in the circular economy.[4]

What are some of the ways you, entrepreneur, can participate in this circular economy movement?

1.) Some social enterprises and nonprofit organizations with an emphasis on green and sustainable development, partner with builders and contractors to accept building materials that traditionally are treated as waste, and instead recycle these materials such as bricks and stones, and use them for urban gardens, agriculture, parks and housing.

2.) Assess how your business currently recycle materials.What one thing can actually be reused or repurposed creating a completely different product? Can something relatively simple such as old, chipped china or dishware be repurposed for a backsplash in the kitchen or bathroom? (I know this is not a typical business idea, but it’s an idea)

3.) Think about designing products with an extended life cycle as well as purchasing products with extended life cycles. /

The circular economy offers circular sustainable benefits, from the preservation of natural resources, job creation, increased revenues, back to protecting the planet by preserving the resources. Europe has primarily been a heavy hitter in this arena and it is believed that emerging and developing countries will begin to experience the benefits of a circular economy as well. Like most sustainability initiatives, a leader with a clear vision and persuasive voice will need to carry the torch and communicate the vision for it to take root in any company. But the concept is in motion, all we have to do is jump on this merry-go-round and enjoy the ride.

Please feel free to contact me: e.michellemickens@live4changellc.com

[1] Goodwin. (2015, March 12). How to bust the biggest myths about the circular economy. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/mar/12/circular-economy-myths-busted-reality-check

[2] IBID.

[3] Elks, J. (2015, September 23). Why a Circular Economy Is Key to Sustainable Development (and Why Business Must Lead the Way). Sustainable Brands. Retrieved from http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/next_economy/jennifer_elks/why_circular_economy_key_sustainable_development_w

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[4] Linder, M., & Williander, M. (2017). Circular Business Model Innovation: Inherent Uncertainties. Business Strategy & The Environment (John Wiley & Sons, Inc), 26(2), 182-196. doi:10.1002/bse.1906[4]

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