Five Actions for Sustainable Business
Embrace Circularity and Become Regenerative
Use operating principles to avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle, and reclaim materials to minimize waste and accelerate your adoption of circular economy processes. Go beyond doing “less bad” to adopt approaches to do “more good.”
Eliminate waste and pollution
For decades, companies have made progress in reducing their operational waste production and the pollution that impacts both the environment and communities. Today, sustainable businesses need to transform the way they make and deliver products and services and help their consumers change how they use them. With 91% of material resources lost into landfill or leaking into the environment once consumed, shifting from a linear to a circular economy presents a huge opportunity for business.
Gartner predicts that in the next 10 years, circular economies will replace linear economies. Accenture predicts $4.5 trillion of new economic growth opportunity by 2030 through circular economy strategies powered by digital technologies.
By putting in place clear operating principles to avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle, and reclaim material, businesses can play an active part in accelerating the broader circular economy. Increasing regulation is forcing companies to take greater responsibility for their products, including end of use.
The consumer products industry offers an example of how a data-supported approach to sustainability is emerging. Many consumer products are packaged the same way, whether they’re sold in Stockholm or Shanghai. However, as governments begin to regulate single-use packaging for environmental reasons, a packaging design may generate different costs and benefits depending on where it’s used.
With good data, sustainable business leaders can explore the financial effects of creating unique packaging for individual markets to attract more customers, pursue zero-waste aspirations, or lower the costs of following local environmental regulations.
Circulate products and materials
A global transformation is needed to focus on supply chain traceability, transparency about sustainable sourcing and production, waste recovery throughout the product lifecycle, and keeping materials in use longer. Exploring and developing reclaim and reuse business models will be a vital part of the story as businesses need to design and deliver products fit for circularity.
The greater the value that’s locked into a product, the greater the potential for developing a circular business model around it. Factors, like product regulations and markets for used products or industrial waste, also determine how much value businesses can extract from circular models. Producers need to be connected to predictable and traceable sources of secondary materials, and waste managers to the insights that support infrastructure investment in the right places.
Establish regenerative principles for your business
To achieve faster progress toward sustainability, businesses need to not only do less bad, but do more good. According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, a leading advocate of circular economy approaches, companies should regenerate nature through their actions.
Companies should no longer design products and services to only meet cost, appearance, and functional requirements, they should focus on designing to deliver positive impacts. Businesses need to rethink the materials they use throughout their operations. How materials are sourced and disposed of can no longer be separated.
Sustainable business leaders are innovating materials and using technologies that actively help regenerate natural ecosystems. According to the World Economic Forum, businesses putting nature first will generate $10.1 trillion a year in business opportunities.
The road to regeneration also entails a range of nature-based solutions, such as reforestation and wetlands restoration, bringing natural elements like trees and vegetation into cities and rehabilitating coastal areas and ocean ecosystems. These actions help protect communities from events like floods, reduce heat impacts in urban areas, sequester carbon, and enhance biodiversity.