The Next Economy
Trucost Research Points to $10B #BusinessCase for Circular Economy for Electronics

Last month, the Green Electronics Council (GEC) unveiled new research carried out by Trucost that highlights the importance of advancing best circular-economy practices throughout the electronics sector.

The GEC engaged Trucost in order to better understand the intersection of environmental stewardship and return on investment when natural capital considerations are included in the equation. While many individual enterprises have implemented circular-economic principles such as the incorporation of recycled content in products, little research has explored the global implications of applying those principles across the entire electronics sector.

“Accounting for natural capital translates environmental benefits to the language of business – dollars and cents. Companies can finally join up the financial and environmental business case,” said Libby Bernick, Trucost’s Senior Vice President for North America. “Through their understanding of the industry, the Green Electronics Council has helped us to identify game-changing natural capital business insights.”

Trucost’s work with the GEC analyzed industry-average data, publicly available databases, LCA studies and Trucost’s models. The research assessed natural capital impacts and dependencies across the value chain where information was available. The results provided high-level insights on environmental impact “hot spots.” Among the findings:

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Efficiency

  • Above: The electronics sector is more efficient than most other industries in its use of natural capital to generate revenue. However, rapid growth in consumption of electronic devices means absolute natural capital impacts are likely to increase even if per-device requirements remain level or decrease in relative terms.

Metal Recovery Value

  • Above: Precious metals recovery represents a significant business opportunity in addition to holding environmental benefits. Trucost estimates that if recovery of gold, silver and platinum increased from current rates to 100 percent, the financial and natural capital benefits would increase by $10 billion.

Water Scarcity Risk

  • Above: Water scarcity issues are growing yet unevenly distributed, meaning that, by 2025, up to $0.82 of every $1 in revenue is at risk for a semiconductor company in Hiroshima, while a Beijing company risks $0.60 of every $1 in company revenue due to water scarcity.

“These findings confirm the importance of finding new approaches to electronics production and consumption,” said Scott Davis, interim CEO of the GEC. “They lend a definite urgency to the work that GEC carries out every day to support sustainability in the electronics sector.”

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