The Circular Economy: The New Business As Usual

When advocates of sustainable sourcing practices talk in macro-economic terms, businesses take notice. It's one thing for those of us re-usable bag toting agitators to chant about ground-up efforts to reduce our individual impact, but if we want to achieve meaningful change, we need the big boys to sign on, too. Looking for solid data to back up the long-term benefits of sustainable responsibility, I came across an article in Fast Company quoting a study by The Conference Board for Sustainability. 

The landscape is this: "Even as the idea of a circular economy – a sustainable business theory that companies should eliminate waste by designing their business models to recycle and reuse everything they produce—becomes more popular, the traditional 'take, make, waste' linear economy model is still, from sheer numbers standpoint, the standard. Just around 6% of materials bought and consumed worldwide are then recycled back into new products."

The argument is this: "With the global middle class set to grow from 2 billion people in 2010 to 5 billion people in 2030, rates of consumption will skyrocket at the same time that our natural resources become more stressed: The report cites one estimate that global natural resource use is expected to double between 2015 and 2050, from 85 to 186 billion tons annually."

The report is entitled “Business Transformation and the Circular Economy: A Candid Look at Risks and Rewards” and delivers a blueprint, via case studies of seven major companies–Dell, DuPont, HP, Interface, Kimberly-Clark, Philips, and Waste Management—which have implemented circular economy strategies, and a set of resulting best practices for making that shift.

Lesley RobertsComment