With the potential to change how businesses think about their waste, circular economy models could be an effective means of emissions reduction towards the commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement in addition to economic benefits, waste reduction, and reduced consumption of virgin materials. For businesses interested in making the shift to a closed-loop model, the Canadian National Zero Waste Council has published a toolkit to help, while those already demonstrating leadership can enter apply for The Circulars Awards.
Individuals and organizations can apply for The Circulars through September 30, 2016. The awards, which are an initiative of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Forum of Young Global Leaders, recognize leaders driving innovation and growth that is decoupled from the use of scarce natural resources, who have made notable contributions to the circular economy in the private sector, public sector, and society. The awards will be presented in a ceremony at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2017.
There are seven distinct categories, with Awards for: Leadership (for an individual); Multinational; SME (small-to-medium enterprise); Government, Cities & Regions; Investor; Entrepreneur; and Digital Disruptor. The judging process for these awards will take place in October and November to select the winners and runners-up. There will also be one “People’s Choice” award winner as voted by the public via the website.
According to Accenture Strategy, the rapidly growing circular economy could be worth $4.5 trillion within 15 years. In 2017, The Circulars aim to build on its mission to reinforce the circular economy as a viable, and necessary, response to the global resource challenge, as well as a priority focus for more private and public sector organizations.
The National Zero Waste Council (NZWC) has a similar mission (in fact, the organization was a runner-up finalist in The Circulars 2016 Awards) and hopes its new Circular Economy Business Toolkit will help businesses – particularly Canadian businesses – to embrace zero-waste, closed-loop models.
“Particularly in Europe and Asia they’ve been doing this for a number of years,” Brock Macdonald, the vice chair of NZWC and CEO of the Recycling Council of British Columbia, told Business in Vancouver. “In 20 years all of your competitors are going to be focused on a circular business model so we want [Canadian businesses] to catch up.”
The European Commission recently adopted a Circular Economy Package and launched a €24 billion fund to help businesses transition their models. Two years prior, China’s State Council released a national strategy for achieving a circular economy – the first such strategy in the world. Macdonald said Canada is lagging behind.
“There are a lot of businesses out there that have circularity incorporated into their business models in some shape or form, whether they know it or not,” he added. “And what we’re really trying to do is raise awareness.”
The toolkit is organized into three sections, which focus on business strategy, design innovation and stakeholder engagement. Together, these sections guide businesses through a strategic approach to becoming circular, from identifying risks and opportunities to choosing and implementing appropriate models. The design section offers guidance and examples related to: preventing waste through new business models or improved design; lengthening a product’s life through re-using, repairing or remanufacturing; and improving end-of-life processing and resource recovery. Finally, the stakeholder engagement section aims to help businesses prioritize stakeholders and offers guidance on and examples for engaging employees, customers, suppliers and industry partners.