• Gregory Blake

Creating Circular Advantage

Updated: May 18

What does it mean for an organisation to become circular?

Written by Gregory Blake.

“A circular economy goes beyond the pursuit of waste prevention and waste reduction to inspire technological, organisational, and social innovation throughout the value chain to‘ design -out’ waste from the beginning, rather than relying solely on waste recycling at the end of the chain” (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2013)

The model that economies and companies have favoured for the past two centuries and have relied on today is living on borrowed time. The concept of a circular economy (CE) addresses the inadequacy of our linear economy regarding our current rate of resource consumption and waste generation. To illustrate, Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 21st in 2021, meaning we would need 1.7 earths to provide for humanities current ecological footprint.

Sustainability should be viewed as not the property of an object but that of a system. Thus, the transition from a linear to a CE, mimicking more natural complex adaptive ecosystems, can be seen as the means to achieve a truly sustainable economic model. The CE advocates closing material loops and maximising resource utilisation, thus minimising present and future resource extraction while striving to eliminate the concept of waste and all its forms. In doing so, the CE offers itself as a solution to a broad spectrum of today’s environmental, economic and social problems while reaching out and exposing the economic opportunities and competitive advantage of going circular.

In order to grasp circular advantage, companies must innovate on both fronts: resource productivity and customer value. Doing so requires them to rethink and go back to basics concerning the matter offered by their products or services and reconstruct their business models to align with circular principles. Efficient resource use is a crucial driver for a circular model. The way a company engages its consumers throughout the use phase enables a better understanding of demand dynamics, propelling the continuous evolution of its products and resource requirements. This is as much if not more a key driver than resource efficiency.

Companies that adopt circular business models (CBM) achieve the “closing and slowing of material loops” in different ways, and different CBM strategies have been identified. Regardless of the CBM strategy pursued, making the shift is not easy at a practical level. And it is possibly even more so for established companies as their strategies, structures, operations and supply chains are deeply rooted in a linear approach. Therefore, the resulting impacts and challenges faced by companies that aim to embody this strategy should be thoroughly investigated and evaluated beforehand to better their chances of success.

Why is this important for business?

“Job one of business is to support customers by producing benefits and assets for society, not liabilities and detriments” - William McDonough

If business operations continue on today’s course, the availability and price of materials will become a bottleneck for growth and global prosperity tomorrow. Yet, commerce remains the single most significant human force, innovative, powerful, capable and resourceful enough to shift its course towards beneficial change and the gears towards a sustainable transformation of the economic system. The necessity of such a shift is crucial if we are to achieve ambitions that respond to our current climate crisis, such as Europe’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.

For examples of business transformation, in the case of scarce or environmentally destructive resources, developing a Circular Supply-Chain introduces entirely renewable, recyclable or biodegradable materials used over multiple lifecycles to reduce costs and reduce risk from market volatility. Other CBM differentiate themselves by focusing on Recovery and Recycling, Product Life Extension, Sharing Platforms or delivering Products as a Service. The latter takes the form of a product-service system by providing functionality rather than ownership. This model has long been associated with benefits relating to decoupling emissions and material use from value generation, thus being more sustainable.

How can Greenfish support you?

Companies must embrace circular economy techniques and fully close their resource loops by transitioning from value chains to value cycles in order to secure long-term economic development, social cohesion, and environmental stability. Greenfish is convinced that circularity will become an imperative for businesses continuity and thus is committing to leading the way with critical partners to capture the value of the circular economy. Greenfish consultants have first-hand experience to solve some of the challenges that arise from waste management and can enhance the impact and the effectiveness of a long-term circular strategy.

Figure 1: Greenfish Waste & Circularity 3 pillar approach

With Greenfish’s support, organisations stay ahead of the trends and remain compliant with the national legislation aligning with the newly released European Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP). Besides reaching explicit goals in waste reduction and recycling rate, the added value of our solution can be found in the implementation of more comprehensive and integrated circular changes that improve shareholder value. Our expertise delivers multiple benefits for corporations:

Figure 2: Benefits of waste management & circularity

To support businesses in this transition, Greenfish has designed a three pillars approach:

  • Waste management is a great first step toward implementing more circular and sustainable processes. Greenfish can assist by carefully visualising and analysing a company's operations, resources, and waste streams. We then create a roadmap to help attain a goal set by internal or external stakeholders, outlining the necessary action to put in place.

  • With the valorisation of a specific waste stream, Greenfish supports the process by which waste of an industry or an industrial process becomes the raw material of another, ultimately creating industrial symbiosis. This type of market and feasibility study creates partnerships and brings monetary value to a company’s waste.

  • On a more strategic level, Greenfish is conducting global circularity assessments and developing circular business models. With the support of Life Cycle Assessment as science-based ground-work, the focus is directed toward the upstream of a company. This means that Greenfish will look at the materials and designs used by the company and its suppliers.

If you are looking for advice to manage your waste or assistance to develop a Circular Business Model, reach out to Stéphanie Kint, Waste & Circularity Manager at Greenfish. (skint@greenfish.eu)

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