Despite the strong, and growing, interest from consumers in securing the future of our planet, some big businesses are still struggling with quantifying how much money they will make, or save, by helping consumers lead a sustainable lifestyle.
Challenging the concept of ‘make, use, dispose’
And that’s where the concept of a ‘Circular Economy,’ comes in. A circular economy is defined by WRAP(1) as “an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.”
It’s not often that a new industrial model is unveiled so the launch of Circular Economy 100(2), a forum of organisations including Coca-Cola, Nespresso and Unilever, is certainly getting attention. They argue that the old, linear model of production, consumption and waste is no longer a sustainable business option and that materials must be re-used and replenished.(3)
In a recent survey of top business leaders conducted by Futerra, a leading UK communications firm and BSR, a global network of more than 250 member companies, respondents believe that the number of consumers claiming to be ‘moderately – very interested’ in sustainable lifestyles will reach 98% by 2018 (from a current 2% who are ‘very interested’ now). (4)
With this statistic in mind, you may be wondering what steps you could take that would not only add value to the bottom line of your business, but also keep customers (as well as staff and stakeholders) happy that you’re doing your best to recycle, re-use and re-think how you do business.
Consider Remarkable(5) for inspiration; Remarkable are a supplier of eco-friendly promotional items to 4imprint. Formed in 1996, the company took plastic cups from offices, turned them into pencils and sold the pencils back to the offices – how’s that for circular! The company invents and makes all its own machinery and now recycles over 10 tonnes of plastics, tyres, paper and card each week. Their eco-friendly promotional products include notebooks, keyrings, and of course, pencils.
You could also consider setting up a forum internally to kick start your own circular ideas: Think about your whole business process – from sourcing of materials, design, production, packaging, delivery and ‘after life,’ pose questions such as;
• How could you cut down on packaging or encourage its re-use?
BT encourages customers to return used or faulty home broadband hubs for reconditioning rather than throwing them away(6)- could you adopt a similar policy?
By 2020 the planet will have an extra 3 billion middle-class consumers with raw materials in increasingly short supply(7). So it makes sense now to consider ways to recycle and re-use, or switch to alternative, more sustainable materials.
It’s clear that consumers are increasingly expressing desire for a more sustainable lifestyle and do expect businesses to take the lead. You could also use your company’s social media channels to engage customers in discussions around sustainable products and listen to their thoughts.
At an increasing rate, it is making both commercial and environmental sense to switch your corporate mindset on to the opportunities presented by circular thinking: increasing your market-share, building brand loyalty and perhaps most attractive of all ‘future proofing’ your business.