What Are They and What Do They Mean for the Future?
The creation of a circular economy – a continuous, regenerative approach to designing products and systems – is vital to achieving lasting sustainability on a global scale. It’s a concept we’ve been examining as part of our commitment to ensuring that your marketing communications are sustainable today and in the future. But, what will the world’s economy look like when it’s circular? And how do we get there?
The same questions were recently examined by ecologist Eva Gladek, founder and CEO of the Metabolic Foundation and a leading consultant on the circular economy. In an article posted on greenbiz.com in March, she provided a longer-view definition: “The circular economy is a new economic model for addressing human needs and fairly distributing resources without undermining the functioning of the biosphere or crossing any planetary boundaries.” The seven pillars that follow are considered essential quantitative tools to evaluate the circularity of products, projects, businesses, and investment portfolios. We’re happy to note that the work is already in progress.
- Materials are incorporated into the economy and cycled at continuous high value.
We’re beginning to see an extended lifecycle for many products and materials. The key to ongoing sustainability will be to continually transform and reuse them via a circular process of recovery, reuse, recycling, remanufacturing, and re-imagining.
- All energy is based on renewable sources.
Although non-fossil fuel modes of renewable energy – like wind, solar and hydro power – are firmly in place, scientists and businesses are researching the long-term efficacy of other viable avenues, such as geo-thermal, biomass and bio-fuel, and looking to nature for other inspiration.
- Biodiversity is supported and enhanced through all human activities.
Our commitment to reaching zero deforestation and protecting the forestlands we use for both commerce and recreation takes into account the many species and habitats of the plants, animals and insects who live there. Fortunately, more and more companies, organizations and people across the globe are heeding the call. It takes a planet to save a planet.
- Human society and culture are preserved.
A functioning circular economy in which all stakeholders focus on smart ways to maximize our materials and resources will go a long way toward protecting unique cultures and societies. Work to mitigate climate change and protect endangered communities and cultures can be accomplished by removing the necessity to use up our resources. Case in point: Canada’s historic Great Bear Rainforest Agreement (February 2016) stopped logging in 85% of its old-growth rainforest (3.1 million hectares), protecting several endangered species as well as the culture and ancestral home of 26 aboriginal peoples (The First Nations).
- The health and well being of humans and other species are supported.
Global issues like climate change, air pollution, water and food scarcity, as well as the mounting e-waste from discarded, obsolescent equipment can all be mitigated by an economic shift to circular thinking and remanufacturing. It also opens the door to new products and solutions that may have a positive effect on the health and well being of people – like revaluing and reshaping CO2, GHGs and other pollutants into new uses and products that don’t affect health.
- Human activities generate value in measures beyond just financial.
A shift from a linear “take-make-dispose” approach to manufacturing and other activities to a circular one will greatly diminish the effect of using up resources to meet financial objectives. There are also aesthetic, ecological and emotional values that can be gleaned from various human activities.
- The economic system is inherently adaptable and resilient.
The commitment to shifting to a circular model for the world’s economic systems is evident in the scope of work being carried out in the private and public sectors as well as via grassroots efforts. It must continue to evolve as we move forward.