The circular economy is a concept that has been prominent in sustainability circles for a few years now. But what does it mean to the average business? Is this something that small and medium-sized businesses should be looking at as part of their planning and development?
The old system is broken and we are in need of a new way to operate, to trade. The linear economy – where we take, make and dispose of resources – is no longer viable. Our resources are finite. In 2017 the Earth Overshoot Day, the time when we have used up all of the earth’s resources than the planet can renew for the year, fell on 2 August. It’s a date that’s getting earlier year by year.
A circular economy is a realistic solution to manage our resources – materials, water, energy – efficiently and effectively. The way resources are utilised ensure that they stay in the economy for as long as possible. Not used once to disappear for good, but used time and again for as long as they contribute in a meaningful manner.
This approach requires collaboration with different parts of a supply chain, from the initial design, how a product is produced, sold and what happens at the end of its first life. In the linear economy it is easy to work in isolation without taking into account the wastage. A holistic approach changes this, finding opportunities to create a resource-efficient future.
It is also about finding new ways of trading, such as using services, rather than buying products, reinvesting in natural capital and developing ideas for the long-term stability of world economies.
As a small or medium-sized business this may seem something that is not relevant to you. Circular practices are being embraced by many large corporations around the world, as their leaders recognise the benefits this approach brings to their business. This is no different to smaller firms who have similar ambitions as larger ones – to grow a strong, resilient business that is ready to embrace and exploit future opportunities.
Business in the Community’s latest campaign The Circular Office highlights ways companies can contribute to the long-term sustainability of their business by changing the mindset in the way products are used around the office. Using resources more efficiently can reduce costs, freeing up money that can be re-investing in the business or used to hire new employees.
Some steps you could take to become more circular:
- Reduce the amount of paper used in the business
- Maximise the re-use, refurbishment and recycling of all resources
- Encourage employees to make suggestions on how to become more circular
- Consider leasing products, such as printers/photocopiers/lighting
- Source renewable energy
For a circular economy to be most effective all parts of the economy, whether private businesses, public sector or charitable organisations or consumers, need to embrace a new thinking. This requires all to use resources efficiently or adopt new business models. Not to the detriment of the economy but as an integral part of building a resilient future.