The Circular Economy and Your Business

Author: Paul Frith

I was privileged to be asked as keynote speaker to the Waste 2016 conference, which concluded today at Coffs Harbour, NSW. The topic I was speaking on was the challenges of a Circular Economy for public sector services in the UK (primarily waste management) when under the influence of austerity. Much of this annual conference, which when it first took place 20 years ago, was dominated by landfill engineering and design (important aspects as they are to get right!), but it is now focussed on the Circular Economy. The 570 delegates are not so much waste managers, as they are resource managers, a crucial distinction.

The Circular Economy is all about doing business differently to reduce waste, save resources and this should bring efficiencies along the way. But change is always challenging! It brings risks – what if my customer or my supplier doesn’t embrace, or at least ‘go along with’ the new approach. It also brings great business opportunity for companies showing leadership and significant commercial reward.

I am interested in what they do (part 1)

This is where looking across sectors (public or private, or hospitality or manufacturing) can provide insight into successes and help show that change can not only be delivered but can raise you above the competition as an example to be heralded. The amount of conferences I have been at where Philips is cited for provided lighting services to businesses, rather than selling light bulbs / LEDs – it makes great business sense for them because the company retains an active and on-going involvement with their customer, but they also can take back used LEDs and lighting kit for repair, recovery and recycling – saving on resources. It is also great for the customer because they always get lighting and don’t need to re-procure, maintain etc. A great example, and there are many others in different sectors, covered by Credibly Green blogs previously, in the automotive, paint, construction sectors among others.

I am interested in what they do (part 2)

The same type of shared learning can be achieved when looking at practices across countries. Australia were looking to the UK for examples and I was learning from Australia, New Zealand and other Countries represented. I was able to show how we, in the UK, have transformed the public sector waste management in the past 15 years, saving huge amounts of resources through the systems put in place, the strategies and policies envisaged, and enacted by all the players (central, local government, waste management contractors and their advisers) through recycling activity in particular. And most importantly the public themselves bought into it – the ‘customer’ accepted, welcomed and now come to expect, this change, this higher level of service.

We bring this thinking to all our work for businesses of any type whether office based or in manufacturing, it starts with measurement. This gives you the information and a clear baseline from which to improve. So contact us for any support on environmental measurement, PR and good practice – we will support your business into a Circular Economy mind set and will also help you assert this strong message across to your customers and suppliers.

The draft EU Circular Economy package has been published and it is coming down the track, stay ahead of it!

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