Apr 12, 2018 / by Sarah Brooks / In Guest Blog

A Business Case for Circular Economy

March 14-16 was GLOBE 2018, one of the world’s leading conferences on business and sustainability. Day 2 of the conference included a meeting of business, government, NGOs, and international experts to discuss the potential, pitfalls, and opportunities for accelerating the circular economy transition in Canada.

Several key themes emerged, including the need to create favourable market conditions for circular products and services, as well as the desire for harmonized recycling practices and standards across and among regions. One theme – quite familiar to us – was the call for a clear business case; this area was cited as key to mobilizing the transition to circularity.

Here at The Natural Step, we use the metaphor of the funnel to help visualise increasing economic, social, and environmental pressure felt by society. The pressure builds as natural resources and ecosystem services diminish while the demand for them continuously grows. This in turn leads to increasing social pressures – declining trust in institutions, for example – that have an eroding effect on private, public, and civil society.

Business as usual means ever decreasing room to manoeuvre as the walls of the funnel narrow. It doesn’t take – as Don Cherry said, ‘rocket surgery’ to imagine what happens when these trends converge and collide.

The metaphor of the funnel shows us that there is no better time to act than now. The transition to a circular economy is part of the solution to achieving a sustainable society.

The concept of the circular economy aims to redefine growth, decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources while creating value for all society.

But what’s the business case? In July of last year, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development published the results of over 100 interviews and survey responses. The result was a synthesis of 8 key reasons for transitioning business to circularity:

  • Create additional revenue from existing products and services
  • Spur innovation of new products and services
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Engage customers and employees
  • Distinguish from competition
  • Align with corporate strategy or mission
  • Adapt business models and value chain relationships
  • Mitigate linear risk exposure

Interestingly, these are very aligned with the business case for sustainability outlined by business-case guru Bob Willard, and were described in a recent blog from The Natural Step Canada.

Will it take work to transition to circularity? Absolutely. Is it a business imperative? Without a doubt. Back at the GLOBE conversation, participants were clear: the transition to circularity is both emerging and inevitable. Any way you slice it, circular economy is good – and necessary – business.

Are you and your business ready to join the movement for a circular economy in Canada?

Take a moment to fill out this short questionnaire

author_chris_lindberg Sarah is a Senior Associate with The Natural Step Canada and Special Advisor, Systems Transitions, to the Circular Economy Lab.