Since the inaugural 2012 Ellen MacArthur Foundation report on repositioning the economy towards a circular model instead of a linear model, much thinking has been done on how exactly to achieve such a substantial paradigm shift. Recent pledges from large corporates such as M&S, Coca-Cola and DS Smith to continue investing in sustainable ways of reusing products at the end of their life cycle show that the circular economy has become much more than just an academic concept in these intervening five years.
This year's annual CIWM ‘Resourcing the Future’ conference was held to a backdrop of such pledges, with M&S promising that possible shocks to environmental standards would not impact their ambition and target to become a zero-net waste business, which has been constantly driven through their ‘Plan A’ sustainability initiative. Interest from investors is growing too, with private equity firms including Circularity Capital looking to develop a portfolio of assets solely focused on the circular economy.
Keeping value post-use is key to generating the highest returns from a product going into a new life cycle (a common example, changing the battery of an iPhone vs. recycling the entire product, holds true). Addressing this problem has the potential to create innovative new methods that will cause huge disruptions to the market, with many unexplored opportunities likely not only to promote greater sustainable usage, but also push for better bottom-lines.
Companies that are ambitious and willing to challenge the status quo have a huge opportunity to be the ultimate winners in a sustainable, low carbon economy