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We outline the toolkit to a circular approach for your business, to spur innovation and sustainability, whilst decoupling growth and material use
In the current economic climate, a circular economy is essential to achieving business growth whilst minimising environmental pressure. Companies across the globe, both big and small, are looking towards building a circular economy strategy that will drive change and help profit. Wrap, a UK-based NGO, states that creating a circular helps create new opportunities for growth, whilst reducing waste and helping address emerging resource security and scarcity issues.
As part of the knowledge exchange in the build up to our 5th Responsible Business Summit New York, we hosted a discussion that looked to provide ideas on how to create and drive a circular economy approach.
Joining the discussion were: Timothy Basilone, vice president of environmental affairs at Horsehead Corporation, Scott O’Connell, director of environmental affairs at Dell and Giulio Bonazzi, CEO at Aquafil.
The webinar, which received a total of 591 registrants of which 212 listened in live, outlined how each company is developing its circular approach and the business benefits of doing so. The webinar also featured three polls of our audience to gauge their level of development.
Here are the top tips shared during this session on how to succeed by creating a circular approach within your company:
1. Be clear and ambitious with your vision – You need to create a vision that customers, employees, suppliers and all stakeholders can understand and buy into. Big change will only come about from big targets. Ensure you are clear with the definitions and the goals of what you’re trying to achieve to avoid any misunderstandings or confusion.
2. Re-think the whole lifecycle – Understand and assess the whole product lifecycle, from start to finish, to help fully drive out waste. Scott O’Connell, director of environmental affairs at Dell stated there are three key stages:
• Design – try to simplify and standardise where possible to make it easy for customers to repair, reuse or recycle. This step is crucial, and a lot of time and effort should be spent here as this is where considerable gains can be made
• End-of-life process – companies need to consider their customers and make it convenient and accessible for them to either recycle or return their products
• Closing the loop – the final stage is ensuring there are processes in place that will take the recycled materials and re-integrate them into the supply chain
3. Collaboration is key – All three speakers stressed the importance of collaborating with key stakeholder groups. Giulio Bonazzi, CEO at Aquafil, highlighted that a lot of time and attention was given to working with suppliers as creating a circular loop means fewer resources will be required from them, which in turn could affect their bottom line. O'Connell emphasised the need to bring stakeholders together to understand the vision and map out improvements.
4. Make your product desirable – As Bonazzi stated, customers will not purchase your product if it’s not beautiful. In short they still need to desire it for it to a be a successful product innovation. So performance, design and use need to be central to any circular strategy. Customers may wish for more sustainable products but the majority are not willing to sacrifice performance or price for this change.
5. Ensure accurate costings – Creating and implementing a circular strategy will require considerable investment of time, money and effort. Firstly, as stressed by Timothy Basilone, vice president of environmental affairs at Horsehead Corporation, ensure you create an accurate cost analysis of the project: too often people underestimate the time and cost involved which prohibits development.
6. Don’t lose faith – As with any new project, difficulties will arise. O’Connell suggested all companies should expect this and remain positive and committed in their quest to create a circular approach. Basilone suggests companies should identify early victories. Doing so helps keep people engaged and invested in the project when difficulties arise.
7. Measure, measure and measure – All three speakers stated measurement and KPIs as one of their leading top tips. Developing identifiable milestones and KPIs ensures all stakeholders have a full understanding of progress and successes.
Creating a circular approach is a difficult task, in some cases it’s a whole rethink of business processes and “how the business does things”. But all three speakers shared clear and tangible benefits to their business from this approach:
Two years ago Dell launched its closed loop recycled plastic supply chain which has repurposed £10m worth of recycled electronics back into their supply chain. Saving on both material use and waste-to-landfill
Horsehead Corporation has seen increased customer loyalty and bottom line results
Aquafil has seen attributable growth in the business, both size and profit, through their sustainable approach
All speakers from this webinar will be sharing further insights and ideas at the 5th Responsible Business Summit New York. Joining them are senior executives from the likes of: Target, Elanco, Heineken, Salesforce, HSBC, Pirelli, Interface and many more. For more information, click here