February 27, 2019
Despite this growing interest in embracing a circular economy, only nine percent of the global economy is circular today, and executives cite lack of know-how, technology and available partners as the main challenges of moving toward a circular economy. To speed uptake, the study proposes five ways to help jumpstart the adoption of circularity.
1. Scale up innovation
The recycling and reuse of materials is not a simple process; it requires technology innovation and advancement to make it a scalable, high quality and cost-effective process. For example, today, accessing quality recycled plastic for reuse is challenging. Globally, only 2 percent of plastics are recycled to the same quality as virgin plastic. Companies can partner to invest in R&D initiatives to make material recovery and recycling feasible and cost effective, which is sure to speed and expand adoption.
2. Bring finance to the table
Currently focused primarily on short-term risk and return, the finance community has a pivotal role to play in the transition to the circular economy. From internal finance teams that model and support the transition to new circular business models within their own companies, to investment bodies that invest exclusively in portfolios of circular businesses, to start-ups and venture capitalists that support innovators in circularity, the power of finance is largely untapped and their aid and support will advance circularity.
3. Support interdisciplinary learning
The leap from considering product quality and performance nearly exclusively during the design process to considering product impact from the time raw materials are extracted, through to how and where they are disposed of - is an enormous jump in factors for engineering to accommodate. Even the shift from traditional business models to circular business models can require significant changes across a company. For circularity to be successful, the entire company – every role and every person – must be aware and involved. In-house education and training are critical.
4. Promote circular governance
Legislation can play a powerful role in advancing circularity. From setting thresholds for recyclability, to setting an example by purchasing circular products, governments worldwide have a responsibility to advance circularity through responsible legislation and practice.
5. Encourage activism
While waiting for consumers to purchase exclusively circular products is expected to lack the expediency demanded by our fragile planet, activism and building of awareness among consumers is a great way to increase awareness and apply pressure to all stakeholders to make the move toward circularity. Investments in building awareness around the importance of circularity to people and the planet are well worth the resources.
The transformation from the traditional economy to the circular economy will require a great deal of momentum and the engagement of society as a whole. Businesses can lead the charge while also partnering with governments, NGOs, consumers, investors and others to make the vision of a circular economy a reality. If you have not taken the first steps toward circularity, now is the time. Explore some paths to circularity at http://circular.ul.com/circular-economy/p/1.