John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, both professors based in Australia, believe that the country that consumes the most resources in the world and produces the most waste also has the most advanced solutions. In a recent article for Nature, they summarized China’s progress on closing industrial loops to reduce its industries’ consumption of virgin materials and waste generation – in other words, the development of a circular economy.
China’s levels of consumption and waste are completely unsustainable, and its resource use is inefficient. The authors provide several statistics for context:
The latest generation of descendants of oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller have denounced the industry upon which he built their fortune.
The Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) announced this week it has sold its holdings in Exxon Mobil and plans to dump all of its other fossil-fuel investments “as quickly as possible.” Foundation director Lee Wasserman told Bloomberg that fossil-fuel investments comprise roughly 6 percent of the RFF’s $130 million in holdings.
To celebrate the first World Recycle Week April 18th to 24th, fashion retailer H&M is partnering with artist and singer M.I.A. on an ambitious global garment collection campaign. H&M aims to collect 1,000 tonnes of unwanted or worn out clothing items across its over 3,600 worldwide stores. To raise awareness, an exclusive M.I.A. music video will debut on April 11th at hm.com.
With the opportunity to curb over $80 billion in annual industry losses, a circular economy for plastics seems pretty appealing. Several projects in Europe are working to make this happen: Earlier this month, Sustainable Brands covered a collaborative effort between the cities of London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen to improve plastics capture, but companies, non-profits and research centres are also working together to improve traceability and create new materials to help facilitate the transition to a circular economy for plastics.
From “competitors” to collaborators – several European cities in a race to be capitals of the next economy are joining forces to develop practical projects to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen have announced they will work together to design a project that will improve the capture of plastics.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) has launched a U.S. chapter of its Circular Economy 100 (CE100) program, which brings together leading organizations with the objective of innovating, developing and implementing circular economy opportunities.
Food waste has been one of the trendiest topics in sustainability of late, as more and more people have become aware that as much as one third of the world’s food is being wasted. The UN set a target to halve global food waste as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the CEOs of Nestlé, Tesco, Unilever, and other leaders formed Champions 12.3 to pursue.
More and more, circular economic business models are proving ways to cut costs and increase efficiency. A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center (CCC) reinforces that turning waste into resources presents economic opportunities for American businesses.
The prospects of linear models in Europe are slowly diminishing. European experts have concluded that the current cradle-to-grave way of life – exploiting resources, processing them, using them, and discarding them – has no future.
Following the adoption of the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package and the announcement of a €24B fund to support circular economy projects and businesses, several organizations have released research reports and tools to aid the transition.
Dell and actor Adrian Grenier have announced the “Legacy of Good” short documentary film contest, aimed at creating compelling stories to raise awareness around the circular economy movement and the role of technology in creating a better future. As the Dell Social Good Advocate, Grenier will work directly with the winning filmmaker to develop and promote the film.
Plastic packaging is not only an environmental problem, it is economically wasteful, too. Most plastic packaging is only used once, leading to 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging – worth $80-120 billion annually – being tossed and lost to the economy.
Whether the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package is ambitious enough is still under debate, but at least it leaves some flexibility for potential partnerships, industry-led and local government-led initiatives to shape the next economy.
More than 60 environmental leaders and organizations have signed The Carbon Levy Project declaration, calling for a tax on fossil fuel extraction that would help pay for damages caused by climate change. The declaration states that fossil fuel companies are accountable for around 70 percent of present day global warming and should be held accountable for the resulting costs to the countries most affected. Signatories include author Naomi Klein, 350.org’s Bill McKibben, and Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo.
2015 was a pivotal time when humanity turned more decisively toward building a thriving and sustainable world. On our largest shared challenge, climate change, most of the major hurdles to action — both imagined and real — started to crumble. And an unlikely group of new voices joined the fight. From the Pope to global CEOs to almost all the world’s political leaders, the most powerful people got on board.
As more and more companies look to adopt closed-loop business models, the question of whether to create dedicated circular economy roles internally is beginning to bite. Such roles are still thin on the ground, but it’s notable that those businesses that have already adopted them are demonstrating real leadership on this agenda.
On Thursday, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced changes to EU financial tools to help circular economy projects and businesses secure funding and support the realization of EU climate goals. The changes open €24 billion (~US$26.4B) in funding for businesses looking to transition to a circular economy model.
‘If you can’t measure, you can’t manage’ - the first and golden rule of corporate improvement, and key to constructing a case for change. For the emerging practice of ‘circular economy,’ which represents a sea-change in the way we manage our physical resources, the quest for sound metrics is crucial – how do we know what good looks like?
Stakeholders are yet again criticizing the European Commission’s new Circular Economy Package. The original policy, released in December of last year, was denounced as insufficiently ambitious, resulting in its dismissal and a review process over the course of 2015. The Commission adopted the revised package on December 2nd, but some claim the new policy is even weaker than the original.
The concept of the circular economy has, at least over the last couple of years, evolved as somewhat of a holy grail for the sustainable business world. It offers the possibility of decoupling growth and resource consumption; a beacon of hope for companies currently grappling with the need to increase profit while reducing their overall footprints. Yet still many view it only as a promising aspect, somewhat confused as to how to transition standard business models from the linear to circular; how to measure these steps along the way, and what an end target might look like. Wednesday morning’s session at SB’15 London aimed to address some of these barriers.